On the off chance that your phone has ever inconveniently lost power while you were in the bathroom, you'll soon never have to worry about it happening again. Researchers from the University of the West of England have invented a way for you to charge your phone with urine, reports USA Today. That's right, pee power has finally arrived.
The charger makes use of a microbial fuel cell, which relies on bacteria to break down organic matter and turn it into electricity. Although the organic matter doesn't have to come from pee, it just so happens that urine-- of all things-- seems to work best.
"Urine is chemically very active, rich in nitrogen and has compounds such as urea, chloride, potassium and bilirubin, which make it very good for the microbial fuel cells," said Dr. Ioannis Ieropoulos, team leader on the project.
In fact, urine is the only readily available substance that the researchers have tested for the device that outputs enough electricity for it to be commercially viable. Go figure.
The idea behind microbial fuel cells has been around for decades, but it wasn't until Ieropoulos' team tried out urine that they got one to generate enough power to operate a smartphone.
"So far the microbial fuel power stack that we have developed generates enough power to enable SMS messaging, web browsing and to make a brief phone call," said Ieropoulos. "Making a call on a mobile phone takes up the most energy but we will get to the place where we can charge a battery for longer periods. The concept has been tested and it works – it's now for us to develop and refine the process so that we can develop [microbial fuel cells] to fully charge a battery."
So there you have it. Though the idea of plugging your phone into a urinal may take a while to catch on, the charger could have more immediate applications in the developing world where power sources can be scarce and/or expensive. Of course, the charger could also be used to power things besides your phone. Perhaps a more sensible application would be for powering your various bathroom electronics: electric razors, hair dryers, lighting, etc. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has offered funding for the device with these kinds of applications in mind.
You can view a video presentation about the device below: