Urine to power lights in refugee camps

Urine to power lights in refugee camps

The project is led by Professor Ioannis Ieropoulus at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, he highlighted the green nature of the system when he said, “[T]his technology is about as green as it gets, as we do not need to utilize fossil fuels and we are effectively using a waste product that will be in plentiful supply.” He added that the focus of the project is to reliably replicate the urinal-prototype on the ground in the camps and to make it as low-cost as possible. With one microbial fuel cell costing about USD $1.50 (£1) he estimates they could create a small unit for as little as USD $900 (£600), with the added bonus that “this technology is in theory everlasting.”

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We’ve heard of a urinal being used in art, but as a source of power, that’s a new one. In fact, researchers at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) are using the urine collected in the urinal as the source of electricity. Via a series of microbial fuel cell (MFC) convertor stacks the urine is broken down by live bacteria which use the waste product as fuel. The MFC in turn diverts a portion of the biochemical energy that is produced by the microbes and converts it into electricity. The “pee-power” concept was proven by the Bristol BioEnergy Centre in 2013 when it demonstrated MFC stacks fueled by urine could power a cell phone. A new initiative involving a partnership between UWE Bristol and Oxfam is seeking to harness this technology to provide lighting in refugee camps around the world. The system would also serve as sustainable way to dispose of the vast amounts of liquid waste generated at the camps.


Henry Sapiecha

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