Sustainable Energy

Urine-powered wearables: Coming soon?

Anmar Frangoul | Special to
Bristol Robotics Laboratory, UWE Bristol

Researchers in the U.K. have developed a wearable energy generator powered with urine.

According to the University of the West of England (UWE) in Bristol, miniaturized microbial fuel cells (MFCs) have been "embedded" into a pair of socks.

When a user walks, their urine is pumped, fueling the fuel cells and powering a wireless transmitter that sends a signal to a PC.

The UWE says that MFCs contain bacteria that "generate electricity from waste fluids."

"This work opens up possibilities of using waste for powering portable and wearable electronics," Ioannis Ieropoulos, from the Bristol BioEnergy Center at the UWE, said in a release at the end of last week.

"For example, recent research shows it should be possible to develop a system based on wearable MFC technology to transmit a person's coordinates in an emergency situation," Ieropoulos added.

"At the same time this would indicate proof of life since the device will only work if the operator's urine fuels the MFCs."

UWE say that the technology is "the first self-sufficient system powered by a wearable energy generator based on microbial fuel cell technology."

A paper describing the system has been published in the journal Bioinspiration and Biomimetics.

"Having already powered a mobile phone with MFCs using urine as fuel, we wanted to see if we could replicate this success in wearable technology," Ieropoulos said.

"We also wanted the system to be entirely self-sufficient, running only on human power – using urine as fuel and the action of the foot as the pump."

The Bristol BioEnergy Center is based at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, a collaboration between the University of the West of England and the University of Bristol.