Microbes Help Festival-Goers “Pee Into Power”
Urine is being used to charge digital displays at this year's Glastonbury Festival
Festival-goers at this year’s Glastonbury Festival are helping scientists at UK-based Bristol Robotics Laboratory understand how urine can be used to produce energy, as well as providing a little bit of juice to power electronic displays.
Situated on the camp grounds at Worthy Farms where Glastonbury takes place, the “Pee Power” urinal can turn urine into energy using electro-active micro-organisms. As urine flows into cylinders containing the organisms, the microbes eat waste they find and electrons are created as a by-product.
“They eat the waste, that’s their favorite item on the menu,” said Yannis Ieropoulos, professor at Bristol BioEnergy, in an interview with the BBC. “They find the things they need from waste water and urine.”
Before hitting up Glastonbury, the Bristol researchers tested the idea in a lab using a fuel cell pack. Feeding in two liters of urine, the microbes were able to produce 30 to 40 milliwatts of power on average; enough to “slowly” charge a smartphone.
At the festival, the team is trialling the technology by setting up a 40-person urinal to power displays that are used to give attendees information and updates about the event. The researchers expect over 1,000 liters of urine per day, enough they say to power ten of the information displays.