Save a Penny
Never mind spending a penny, a new toilet installed in the University of Bristol could save money, or more importantly it could provide free electricity. The university has joined forces with Oxfam in the hope of providing pee powered toilets to refugee camps where there is no electricity at all and where the toilets in camps make women particularly vulnerable to attack and molestation.
These toilets use a technology that was first demonstrated in 2013, when the university used the same technology to power a mobile phone. The technology behind this system is the Microbial Fuel Cell (MFC) which “turns organic matter directly into electricity, via the metabolism of live microorganisms.Essentially, the electricity is a by-product of the microbes' natural life cycle, so the more they eat things like urine, the more energy they generate and for longer periods of time; so it's beneficial to keep doing it!”
The cell phones were powered by stacking several MFCs together, but the new Pee toilet uses a single one installed in the base of the loo to capture the stream. By wiring it up to a circuit board, and a battery and connecting that to LED lights it can provide enough power to generate light for a considerable amount of time. At a cost of only £1 for a fuel cell and the entire mocked up system for £600 these toilets are a beneficial everlasting technology.
The west of England is fascinated by generating power from human waste and at the end of 2014 the Bath Bus Company began running its first 40 seat “Bio-bus” whichuses a treated combination of human and food waste to produce biomethane to travel 186 miles on a single tank.
One thing is clear, that through using human and animal waste to produce energy we can develop systems that don’t rely on extra space to grow plants and therefore make them as environmentally friendly as possible.