Pee Power!

Some see urine, we see a sustainable power source.


“If we can harness the potential power of human waste, we could revolutionise how electricity is generated.”

Dr Mirella Di Lorenzo, Department of Chemical Engineering

With growing global pressures to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and the associated greenhouse gas emissions, microbial fuel cells could be an exciting alternative. PhD student Jon Chouler, Dr Mirella Di Lorenzo & Dr Petra Cameron from the University’s Department of Chemical Engineering, Department of Chemistry and the Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies (CSCT), have worked with Queen Mary University of London and the Bristol Bioenergy Centre, to devise a new kind of microbial fuel cell that is smaller, more powerful and cheaper than other similar devices.

This device uses natural biological processes of ‘electric’ bacteria to turn organic matter, such as urine, into electricity. These fuel cells are efficient and produce very little waste in comparison to other methods of electricity generation.

In practice, urine will pass through the microbial fuel cell for the reaction to happen. From here, electricity is generated by the bacteria which can then be stored or used to directly power electrical devices.

In the near future this device could provide a means of generating much needed electricity to remote areas at very little cost.

PhD student, Jon Chouler said: “Microbial fuel cells could be a great source of energy in developing countries, particularly in impoverished and rural areas.

“To have created technology that can potentially transform the lives of poor people who don’t have access to, or cannot afford electricity, is an exciting prospect. I hope this will enable those in need to enjoy a better quality of life as a result of our research.”

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Find out more about Mirella Di Lorenzo

‘Pee Power’ as researchers turn urine into a sustainable power source for powering electronic devices