Scientists at Bristol Robotics Laboratory first harnessed the power of pee two years ago, and now their research has taken a giant leap forward. The team has created the world’s first system based on microbial fuel cells (which feast on urine) that can charge a cell phone. Although the idea of a pee-powered phone may gross out many, the dependable nature of the power source doesn’t require special conditions—such as sun of wind—that other renewable energy sources do.

Featured in the Royal Society of Chemistry Journal of Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics, the breakthrough viably uses microbial fuel cells (MFCs) that feast on urine, creating electricity as a by-product. Although the electricity output is relatively low, the researchers, lead by Dr. Ioannis Ieropoulos, were able to siphon enough power to directly charge the battery of a mobile device for the first time.

Calling pee the “ultimate waste product,” Ieropoulos and his crew feel that the reliability of pee power makes it an attractive alternative renewable energy source. Both wind and solar power produce clean energy, but certain weather conditions are necessary for the machinery to work. But microbial fuel cells are always hungry, so the pee to electricity process can be successful under any conditions.

For now, the breakthrough has only been able to harness enough energy for a low charge, but researchers foresee increasing power as the project develops further. The scientists hope for a future of smart toilets, where home toilets can be used as an energy convertor to help offset electric use throughout the house.

Via Daily Mail