A new study published by researchers at University of West England, Bristol, states that urine is full of chemicals that can be used to generate electricity and with each flush could be draining valuable energy.
The Guardian reports that collectively the human race produces 6.4 trillion liters of urine per day and farm animals, 38 billion liters per day. Ioannis Ieropoulos and his colleagues conducted research examining the technique of using microbial fuel cells powered by urine and found that it worked:
The initial tests confirmed that urine-powered fuel cells are technically feasible, and the team now hopes to scale up a prototype system capable of powering homes, businesses or even a small village.
The researchers are particularly interested in using the 38 billion litres of urine produced each day by farm animals, which can have an adverse effect on the environment if not properly managed.
The fuel cells would effectively clean the urine so that it could be safely discharged into the environment, removing the need for costly and energy-intensive treatment by wastewater companies.
Ieropoulos explained that, while the team managed to produce only a small amount of power during trials, it is now looking at stacking up the fuel cells so that the stream of urine runs through the system and produces more power.
"The impact of this could be huge, since it enables us to think of 'waste' in a new way, and offers great potential for the future," he said.
This isn't the first time by a long shot that human or animal waste has been researched as a potential source of energy. Earlier this year, we reported a motorcycle that ran on human "biogas" -- the seat of the cycle was a toilet.