Call of nature: 'Urine could charge mobile phones'
Scientists are claiming a world first in developing a way to charge mobile phones using human urine.
The Bristol-based boffins have been able to charge a Samsung phone by putting urine through a cascade of microbial fuel cells. They have generated enough electricity to send text messages, browse the internet and make a brief phone call.
The scientists now plan to develop the technology to be able to fully charge the handheld device.
The discovery has been made by a team of experts working at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, which is a collaboration between the University of the West of England and the University of Bristol.
Dr Ioannis Ieropoulos, from the University of the West of England, is an expert at harnessing power from unusual sources using microbial fuel cells.
He said: "We are very excited as this is a world first, no-one has harnessed power from urine to do this so it's an exciting discovery. Using the ultimate waste product as a source of power to produce electricity is about as eco as it gets."
The microbial fuel cells act as an energy converter, which turns organic matter directly into electricity, via the metabolism of live microorganisms.
Essentially, the electricity is a by-product of the microbes' natural life cycle, so the more they eat things like urine, the more energy they generate and for longer periods of time.
The electricity output from microbial fuel cells is relatively small and so far the Bristol scientists have only been able to store and accumulate these low levels of energy into capacitors or super-capacitors, for short charge or discharge cycles. It is the first time they have been able to directly charge a mobile phone battery.
The project has been funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the Gates Foundation and the Technology Strategy Board. The 'Waste to Real Energy: the first MFC powered mobile phone' article has been published in the journal Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics.