Pee-Powered Cell Phones!
July 19, 2013 – We've heard of having to take nature's call (having to go to the bathroom to pee); but now nature's call may soon be able to power your everyday cell phone calls!
That's right – pee-powered environmentally friendly cell phones have been developed by a few scientists at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory in England. The team sent text messages, checked their e-mails, and made phone calls on their modified Samsung cell phone that was powered for 24 hours by 500 millilitres (16 ounces) of pee.
The pee was turned into power by a microbial fuel cell, an energy converter that converts one form of energy into another. Deep inside these cells are the same live microbes that you would find in a pile of dirt or living in a lake. These microbes break down one substance –in this case, pee– and convert it into electricity.
"Just imagine the microbial fuels as [being the same as] batteries. We collected them, gave them urine as the fuel, and that's what is used to charge the mobile phone battery," said Ioannis Ieropoulos, the leader of the project.
The project is partly funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the same organization that held a contest to create a toilet that can convert human waste into energy last year! The overall goal of the foundation is to give technology real-world uses for people in developing countries who don't usually have access to a lot of high technology.
As of now the pee has to be filtered through a lot of complex cords and tubes to generate energy, but Ieropoulos hopes that one day someone in the developing world will be able to use their pee-powered phone to call for help in an emergency. "If one was at a remote location and they had this technology available, they could urinate into this technology and get the central electricity to charge up their phone and contact the people they had to contact if they were in a distressed situation," said Ieropoulos.
But what Ieropoulos really likes about this phone is how its technology can take something as ordinary as human waste and turn it into something as useful and potentially lifesaving as electricity.