Renewable is the way to go when it comes to generating energy and scientists in the U.K. have taken the science of producing green energy from renewable sources to the next level. Researchers from University of Bath, Queen Mary University of London and the Bristol Robotics Laboratory have developed a new kind of microbial fuel cell (MFC) that turns urine into electricity.
An MFC uses bacteria to break down substances and taps into the energy that's released. Bio energy can also be produced through fermentation, gasification and anaerobic digestion, but what makes MFCs seem like the better choice is that they can work efficiently at normal room temperature and pressure. They are also cheap to run, produce less waste and efficient, reports Elsevier.
"Microbial fuel cells have real potential to produce renewable bio energy out of waste matter like urine," said Dr. Mirella Di Lorenzo, one of the researchers from the University of Bath. "The world produces huge volumes of urine and if we can harness the potential power of that waste using microbial fuel cells, we could revolutionise the way we make electricity."
One of the main drawbacks of using MFCs, however, is that they can be a little expensive to make. Interestingly, the new fuel cell design that the researchers have developed addresses this issue as well, reports Science Alert.
Normally, platinum is used as a catalyst to speed up reaction times; in the case of the new design, the researchers used glucose and ovalbumin (ov-al-bew-min) — a protein found in egg whites. The fuel cell is also made of low-priced materials — carbon cloth and titanium wire.
The researchers have also successfully improved the efficiency of the fuel cell when compared to traditional fuel cell designs. By doubling the length of the electrodes in the fuel cells to 8mm, the researchers increased the power output tenfold. They further increased power production by stacking the cells in threes.
The researchers aim at miniaturising the MFC and scaling up power production.