Desperate times call for desperate measures, and you know ‘urine’ trouble when you have to rely on your own bodily fluids as a source of electricity. Yet, on occasion, to riff on a popular adage, it happens. Ioannis Ieropoulos’s team at the University of the West of England in Bristol (UWE Bristol) has developed a pair of socks that use urine as fuel to create enough electricity to send an emergency distress signal. This strange sock system uses microbial fuels cells (MFCs), in which bacteria consumes nutrients from the urine and create electricity as a byproduct.
It’s a little unclear why the folks who brought us the world’s first pee-powered cell phone chose to integrate this wearable microbial power plant into a pair of socks, but that’s what they did. The socks contain a tiny manual pump that is activated by the wearer’s steps, and works to circulate approximately a bladder’s worth of urine – around 22 ounces – into the fuel cells. The system can generate enough electricity to run a wireless transmitter and send out a message every two minutes, at least in lab experiments.
These pee-powered emergency socks aren’t created for the average day hiker. Rather, Ieropoulos believes a wearable power plant such as this could be integrated into existing clothing or gear that is already equipped to collect urine, like certain military, space, or technical outdoor equipment. “We envisage gear or clothing that already has or could have excretion incorporated,” he said, “without people having to worry about collecting or handling their urine.”
Utilizing urine as fuel isn’t a new trick, and we’ve covered quite a few pee-powered projects in the past. A group of Nigerian teenagers presented a urine-fueled generator at Maker Faire Africa in 2013, and NASA has been working on recycling liquid gold from astronauts to power the spacecrafts that house them.
Via New Scientist
Images via UWE Bristol