Thursday 27 October 2016

Scientists aim to turn urine into beer with solar-powered device

Cara McGoogan

Published 28/07/2016 | 08:22

The machine turns urine into drinking water and scientists now plan to use it to make beer
The machine turns urine into drinking water and scientists now plan to use it to make beer

A solar-powered machine that can create drinkable water out of urine, could now be used to make beer, according to researchers.

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The researchers at the University of Ghent created a device that uses a solar-powered boiler and special membrane to separate the urine into two parts: water and fertiliser. 

Having tested the method at a music festival in Ghent, where the team collected 1,000 litres of water in 10 days, it is now looking at using the water to make beer. 

"We call it from sewer to brewer," Sebastiaan Derese, one of the researchers from the University of Ghent, told Reuters. "We're able to recover fertiliser and drinking water from urine using just a simple process and solar energy."

To purify the urine, the researchers first collect it in a tank and heat it using a solar-powered boiler. As the water evaporates it passes through the membrane, which separates it from nutrients found in urine and useful as a fertiliser, such as nitrogen and phosphorous. 

Although the water generated by the machine is drinkable, the researchers plan to make beer out of the 1,000 litres generated at the music festival. 

They plan to install more purification machines at shopping malls, sporting arenas and airports, with the ultimate goal to bring clean water to rural areas and developing countries.

Separate research has shown other innovative uses for urine. The University of the West of England created a pair of socks that can send a text message in an emergency when powered by urine. 

The department in Bristol, which this week received more funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is developing a "pee power" device that uses urine to feed microbial fuel cells to generate electricity.

The researchers plan to use the clean energy to power areas with little infrastructure, such as toilets and charging stations at refugee camps, or sanitation plants in developing areas. 

"This project will help people in rural areas of the world where sanitation is non-existent by providing a solution that does not require expensive plumbing infrastructure to enable each home to have a toilet - a luxury for millions around the world," said Ioannis Ieropoulos, director of the Bristol Bioenergy Cenre at UWE. 

The method also generates a by-product that could be used as a fertiliser and for irrigation.

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