Professor Ioannis Ieropoulos of the Bristol BioEnergy Centre at the University of the West of England has created a bioenergy system that uses urine circulated by your footsteps to power wearable electronics.
The system uses energy generators called a microbial fuel cells. They use microbe growth in waste fluids to power small devices like cellphones and lights. A mechanical pump moves urine over a bank of MFCs to produce energy and tubes under the heels move the micturition through the system, constantly reenergizing the units.
The test model created by Professor Ieropoulos and team powered a transmission board that could send a message to a PC receiver.
“Having already powered a mobile phone with MFCs using urine as fuel, we wanted to see if we could replicate this success in wearable technology. We also wanted the system to be entirely self-sufficient, running only on human power – using urine as fuel and the action of the foot as the pump,” he said.
“This work opens up possibilities of using waste for powering portable and wearable electronics. For example, recent research shows it should be possible to develop a system based on wearable MFC technology to transmit a person’s coordinates in an emergency situation. At the same time this would indicate proof of life since the device will only work if the operator’s urine fuels the MFCs.”
Previous MFC systems required simple electric pumps, thereby reducing the efficiency of the system. By harnessing human power to move the pee, Professor Ieropoulos and his team are able to create an energy system that can be used in refugee camps and the developing world. Thankfully the entire thing is self-contained so you won’t have much of a mess on your hands.