There’s a ‘P’ in ‘power’ and now it looks like there’s a power in pee. However, it requires filling your socks with urine and walking around in them. Is this science or a fraternity prank?
The answer is (a) science. Researchers at the Bristol BioEnergy Centre at the University of the West of England have invented socks containing fuel cells powered by human urine that is circulated through them by the motion and pressure created as the wearer walks. Their first experiment was deemed successful when the socks sent a wireless message to a computer (a Pee-C?).
Are these socks the next generation of the beer hat?
The Pee Power Socks (my name, not theirs) are the brainchild of Professor Ioannis Ieropoulos, who works with microbial fuel cells. These are bio-electrochemical devices that rely only on living bacteria to convert organic matter directly into electrical energy. In simple biological terms, the bacteria eat urine which they convert into electrons that are harvested from their urine or excretions.
What about the socks, you ask? The socks act as a simple pump that circulates the urine over the microbes in the fuel cells. Each sock contains 24 fuel cells that hold 648 milliliters (22 ounces) of urine. That’s about how much an average bladder holds, although the average emptying of said bladder is more like about 250 milliliters or one glass of beer.
These uncomfortable-looking socks contain the fuel cells and have tubes, valves and wires all over them. According to Professor Ieropoulos’ report in Bioinspiration & Biomimetics, walking around in a urine-filled pair generated sufficient energy to run a wireless transmission board which sent the message “First Wearable MFC” periodically to a receiver.
Professor Ieropoulos has already invented a cell phone that runs on urine (could this urine fixation be the result of some childhood bed-wetting trauma?) and sees the You’re in Urine Socks (better name?) as a closed-loop system for powering wearable and portable devices.
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.
Sounds like an interesting idea. And if your urine-filled socks leak, pee is also a natural fungicide for athlete’s foot.