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University installs 'pee power' toilet25th of March 2015
A prototype toilet has been opened on a UK university campus in a bid to prove that urine can generate electricity.
Students and staff at Bristol-based University of the West of England are being asked to use the working urinal to feed microbial fuel cell stacks that power the indoor lighting system.
The installation was made following a tie-up between Oxfam and researchers at the university. Oxfam hopes that aid agencies can develop the technology to bring lighting to refugee camp toilets in disaster zones.
"We have already proved that this way of generating electricity works," said research lead Professor Ioannis Ieropoulos, "The project with Oxfam could have a huge impact in refugee camps."
The prototype 'pee power' urinal near the university's student union bar has been made to resemble the types of toilets typically found in refugee camps. The aim was to make the trial as realistic as possible.
"This technology is about as green as it gets, as we do not need to utilise fossil fuels and we are effectively using a waste product that will be in plentiful supply," said Ieropoulos.
An estimated 6.4t rillion litres of urine is produced by humans across the globe every year. Researchers believe it has potential as a cheap and readily available source of energy.
Andy Bastable, head of water and sanitation at Oxfam, commented: "It is always a challenge to light inaccessible areas far from a power supply. Living in a refugee camp is hard enough without the added threat of being assaulted in dark places at night. The potential of this invention is huge."