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 urine 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 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 the LED lights, it can provide enough power to generate lightof a considerable amount of time. At a low cost for a fuel cell and the entire mocked up system, makes for 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" which uses 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 waster 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..