Pee Power: The Greenest Way to Charge Your Phone is Yellow
There might be a better reason to bring your phone into the bathroom than playing Candy Crush on the toilet. Scientists have discovered a way to harness our pee to power smartphones. That’s right, pee power has arrived.
But we have phone chargers, what’s the big deal about pee power, you might be wondering? Well, consider these facts:
- Over 1 billion of the world’s population doesn’t have access to basic electricity
- 2.8 billion gallons of pee is produced everyday
- Pee power technology can capture up to 85% of the energy inside pee
Pee power can help bring power to people and communities that don’t have access to electricity. At least that’s what the scientists behind microbial fuel cells (MFCs) are hoping. With the use of these fuel cells, pee can be transformed into electricity. The electricity can then be stored or used directly to power devices like smartphones or light bulbs.
Here’s how pee power works: MFCs, contain microorganisms, the type you would find in soil or the human gut, which metabolize urine and in the process release electrodes as a byproduct that MFCs convert into electricity. The process involves rigging urinals to feed pee to stacks of MFCs.
But what kind of power are we talking about here?
- A single MFC can produce two watts per cubic meter, which is enough to power a smartphone.
- Using over half a liter of urine (an average toilet visit yields 600ml), MFCs can charge a smartphone for six hours, which is about three hours of talk time.
While the power produced by MFCs isn’t on par with other alternatives like hydrogen, solar, or other bio digestibles, it has the benefit of being extremely cheap in comparison—a single MFC, for example, costs only $1.50. And when stacked together, MFCs are able to produce more electricity to compensate.
Unlike some other energy sources, our pee is an eco-friendly, renewable energy source. So it’s no surprise why the long term plans for pee power are to bring electricity to developing countries, refugee camps, and disaster zones where electricity is scarce and most needed.