Strange but true, a team of researchers have produced a battery that is powered by urine. It is a development that will have the eco-freaks wetting themselves in anticipation.
The team from the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology in Singapore originally created the credit card-size power pack as a disposable source for medical test kits. In the future, they claim, it could be used by any mobile phone user who is caught short with a flat battery.
Whizz-kid scientists are busting to find more environmentally-friendly, lower-cost power sources but are finding themselves up against a wall when it comes to cost and eco-acceptability.
"In order to address this problem, we have designed a disposable battery on a chip, which is activated by biofluids, such as urine," team leader Ki Bang Lee wrote in an e-mail to National Geographic News.
Pissing on your chips may be one thing but the question is one of how much power can be generated. At the moment, the cells produce a trickle of 1.5 volts for 90 minutes. For medical test systems this is enough but it is a piddling amount when it comes to larger devices.
The researchers are aware of this but said that in a couple of shakes the power and lifetime could be improved by adjusting the geometry and materials used. Urine contains many ions to drive the chemical reaction but other bodily fluids, such as tears and blood would also work. Even semen comes to mind which means those denizens of smartphone porn sites could keep their Androids busy for hours.
Flushed with success, the team is now looking ahead. They aim to have their power cells applied to laptop computers, mp3 players, televisions, or even cars. It depends on how they scale up and whether prices could be slashed to make them viable.
One solution would be to connect cells together, as in the current batteries powering laptops. Unlike the environmentally hazardous lithium sells, there would also be fewer problems in complying with the WEEE directive for electronic equipment disposal.
Bodily-fluid exchangers look like a going proposition. Micturition could result in new revenue streams and a golden shower of riches for any commercial company that points its developers in this direction.