Mind your Ps and queues!

Posted on 01/07/2016 by IED

The ‘Pee Power’ urinal – which turns pee into electricity –took centre stage in the Stone Circle at Glastonbury Festival in June.

The toilet, designed by researchers at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol), contributed to the facilities needed on site. But the real purpose was to test out a technology in its relative infancy that has the potential to change the lives of those living in countries where sanitation and electricity are off grid. The unit is powered by urine fed through microbial fuel cells (MFCs) that generate enough electricity to light up the inside of the urinal.

A team of researchers from UWE Bristol, and workers from Oxfam and Dunster House shelter manufacturers, used the festival like a field trial in advance of planned trials in Africa and India later this year. The specially adapted urinal first appeared at Glastonbury last year, but this time the team created a unit capable of accommodating up to 25 people at once – the size planned for use in refugee camps.

Professor Ioannis Ieropoulos, director of the Bristol BioEnergy Centre, Bristol Robotics Laboratory, at UWE Bristol, said: “We have also developed the microbial fuel cell unit, so it is much smaller – and yet delivering the pee power with more power. Our ethos about reusing free resources – in this case urine, generating energy for free and also cleaning the urine, so that it is suitable for agricultural use – resonates with the Glastonbury Festival organisers, who made us feel very welcome.”

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