Microbial fuel cells turn human waste into electricity


The first mobile phone battery to be directly charged by microbial fuel cells feeding on neat urine has been reported by scientists in the UK.


Back in 2011 we covered the urine-powered fuels cells being developed by Ioannis Ieropoulos and colleagues at Bristol Robotics Laboratory. They had shown that urine was an excellent fuel for direct electricity generation. As a bonus, the cells can reclaim essential nutrients from the urine, making wastewater treatment easier.

This latest study is the first time a commercially available mobile phone has been powered by urine-powered fuel cells. Cascades of electrically connected fuel cells use bacterial action to convert chemical energy in organic matter in urine into electricity.

The team hope their work will lead to emergency charging devices for remote locations.