‘Pee Power’: A New Way to Light Up Refugee Camps | TIME

A university in England has developed a urinal that generates energy

“Pee If You Want to Help Refugees.”

Not exactly a zinger of a bumper sticker, and it sounds a bit daffy, but it’s actually a serious and meaningful message that could ease the lives of refugees worldwide who have fled storms, famine and war.

The University of the West of England has teamed up with Oxfam, the global social services organization, to develop a urinal based on a novel technology. In the prototype toilet at the school in Bristol, urine is fed to stacks of microbial fuel cells (MFCs) that generate electricity.

Their goal is to expand the technology on a large scale to ensure well-lit camp toilets in disaster areas. To achieve that, students and staff members of the school are urged to do their part in showing the effectiveness of the device.

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“We have already proved that this way of generating electricity works,” the toilet’s lead researcher, Professor Ioannis Ieropoulos, told The Guardian. Ieropoulos directs the Bristol BioEnergy Center, which in 2013 showed that a more primitive setup of MFC stacks can generate enough electricity to power a phone. “The project with Oxfam could have a huge impact in refugee camps,” he said.

It works like this: The MFC stacks in the toilets contain live bacteria which use urine to grow and maintain themselves, and, as a byproduct, generate electricity as well – “what we call urine-tricity or pee power,” Ieropoulos said. The power is then used to light up the toilet cubicles for the convenience of the user.

via ‘Pee Power’: A New Way to Light Up Refugee Camps | TIME.