Soon, we might no longer need to worry when we need to pee and can’t find a toilet. We could just let the liquid waste trickle into our socks. Sounds unappealing? A team of researchers from the University of the West of England has created the first pair of socks using urine to generate electricity.
It might still sound unappealing, but if you remember Dune and the pains of filtering urine into drinkable water, you might catch the drift. The pair of socks work in a similar manner as the mechanism in the science fiction movie. Instead of filtering urine into water, the pair of socks uses urine to fuel electricity production.
Here’s how the first pair of socks using urine to generate electricity works. The sock are built with several soft silicon tubes that start at the heel and end at the ankle. At the ankle level the research team has designed a mechanism based on microbial fuel cells.
Microbial fuel cells pack colonies of bacteria which basically feed on nutrients found in urine, creating electrical charge. Thus, when a person wears the socks and walks around, the urine is pumped through the soft silicon tubes all the way to the microbial fuel cells. Here, urine becomes the fuel for electrical charges. The capacity of the ‘bladder’ foreseen in the socks is 640 milliliters.
Remember, we’re talking about emergency energy generation. The first pair of socks using urine to generate electricity may not provide the human operator with sufficient power to uphold electronic appliances. During the experiments, the pair of socks has however generated sufficient power for a device to transmit the message “World’s First Wearable MFC” to a computer at two-minute intervals.
If you’re interested in finding out more about the first pair of socks using urine to generate electricity, check out the article ‘Self-sufficient Wireless Transmitter Powered by Foot-pumped Urine Operating Wearable MFC’ published in the Bioinspiration & Biomimetics journal. It’s definitely worth a read.
It’s not really clear how one would handle the urine though or how the urine should trickle into the pair of socks. However, the researchers stated that their future vision includes a line of clothing or gear which could have the excretion mechanism built in. It would be a relief to know that to generate electricity from urine one doesn’t have to actually handle the liquid waste.
Photo Credits: cdn.phys.org