Human urine can be used to charge cell phones, scientists say. And there is a copious amount of the fluid where that comes from, they point out.
In this waste to energy scenario, the latest source of power to charge your mobile phone is inexpensive and plentiful.
According to researchers, urine contains many ions or electrically charged atoms. This makes possible for electricity-producing chemical reaction to take place in a urine battery, which in turn, results in the activation of the battery.
According to Daniel M. Kammen of UC Berkeley, other bodily fluids, such as tears, blood, and semen, would work easily as well to activate the battery.
“Little bags of urine may generate chuckles,” Kammen said. “But really urine is just a nice example [of] a whole variety of compounds that do this stuff.”
Researchers at England’s University of the West recently reported that microbial fuel cells using human urine can directly power a mobile phone. Their findings were published in the journal of Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics.
The researchers presented two tools for converting urine to energy to power the cell phones. They said these new tools would help people in rural areas extend talk time and stay connected. However, they cautioned these tools are not small enough to be easily portable. One consists of six ceramic cylinders that are four inches long; the other is an arrangement of 25 smaller fuel cells.
It was in 2011, that researchers first demonstrated that urine was not to be dismissed as waste but could be used as a feasible energy source. They showed that as urine cascaded through a series of fuel cells, hungry bacteria consumed it and released electrons which produced an electric current.
Urine-powered batteries were first inspired by the need to develop bio-chips for use in medicine, according to Ki Bang Lee, co-developer of the urine-charged battery.
“Our urine-activated battery would be integrated into bio chip systems for healthcare diagnostic applications,” he said.
In his initial experiment, Lee, with his team of researchers at the Institute of Bio-engineering and Nanotechnology in Singapore soaked a piece of paper in copper chloride and then inserted it between strips of magnesium and copper. He then laminated the unit.
He and his team found that when they added a drop of urine to the copper chloride paper, a chemical reaction took place and produced electricity which was harnessed by the battery.
Lee predicted that one day people will be able to monitor their own health at home using bio-chips powered by this type of battery.
According to him, the urine battery can activate any electric device with low power consumption.
“For example, we can integrate a small cell phone and our battery on a plastic card. This can be activated by body fluids, such as saliva, during an emergency,” he said.
According to Kammen the urine–powered technology could even be used to charge laptop computers, mp3 players, televisions, and cars.
He stated body-fluid-powered batteries “can do all kinds of things.” He added, “the issue is how they scale up” to produce more power.
Therefore, despite any icky feeling you may have, urine can charge your cellphone.