In an increasingly connected world, sometimes you have to take power where you find it. Thin film batteries may address wearable concerns of bulkiness, but what about times when you’re off the grid and still need power? That’s where Microbial Fuel Cells (MFCs) come in. We’ve previously written about glucose biofuel fuel cells (GBFCs) using shrimp bodies as a power source and utilizing the piezoelectric property of cellulose .
The Bristol BioEnergy Centre, part of the Bristol Robotics Laboratory of the University of Bristol is working on MFCs using various organic materials such as sugar, garbage, and dead flies. The general concept is to find the technology to efficiently convert organic waste into electricity. One of their latest projects has demonstrated charging a mobile phone with MFCs made of ceramic material with carbon-based electrodes that convert urine to electricity.
You won’t find a pee-powered cell phone power supply anytime soon at Best Buy or on Amazon, but the raw material is certainly readily available. As you’ll see in the video, the complex setup in the lab required to filter and process urine will need to be scaled down prodigiously. The markets for power from waste material in developing countries, people living off the grid, and sports and adventure applications offer great incentives for continued research and development.