UWE Bristol researcher to feature in Horizons programme as it returns to BBC World News

Issue date: 06 June 2014


BBC Horizons Presenter Adam Shaw with Dr Ioannis Ieropoulos at Bristol Robotics Laboratory

Mobile phone runs on urine power – check out the video

A researcher from the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) is to feature in the new series of Horizons on BBC World News this weekend. The new series of Horizons uncovers technology that could change the world.

Associate Professor Ioannis Ieropoulos from the Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL) has already caused a global media storm with his revolutionary technology that uses urine as a fuel to generate electricity sufficient to power a mobile phone.

Dr Ieropoulos said, “I'm really delighted to be given the opportunity to promote the work by the BioEnergy team at the Bristol Robotics Lab on the first of the new series of the Horizons programme. It's quite something to be featured alongside such a fascinating range of reports. The work we have been doing uses microbial fuel cell stacks that essentially feed on urine to generate electricity.

“This discovery is a world first and uses the ultimate waste product as a source of power to produce electricity – it's about as eco as it gets as one product that we can be sure of an unending supply is our own urine.

“By harnessing this power as urine passes through a cascade of microbial fuel cells (MFCs), we have managed to charge a Samsung mobile phone. The beauty of this fuel source is that we are not relying on the variable nature of the wind or the sun; we are actually re-using waste to create energy.

“So far the microbial fuel cell power stack that we have developed generates enough power to enable SMS messaging, web browsing, music playback and making a brief phone call. Making a call on a mobile phone takes up the most energy, but we are striving to get to the place where we can charge a battery for longer periods. The concept has been tested and it works – it's now for us to develop and refine this process so that we can develop MFCs to fully charge a battery.”

Presented by the award-winning business journalist Adam Shaw, Horizons continues its journey around the globe discovering the latest technologies and innovations that could revolutionize the way we live. From discarded mobile phones that could provide a reliable solution to illegal deforestation, lettuce leaves that could help fight polio, HIV and cholera and batteries charged by urine, this series will continue the search for the ideas and people tackling some of the big challenges facing our planet.

Talking about the new series Adam said, “We've been travelling the globe for series 4 of Horizons and I've continuously been struck by the ingenuity of the people we met. Not just from those you'd expect, like scientists and academics, but ordinary people with brilliant ideas. And what's most exciting is that these ideas have the potential to change millions of lives.”

The Horizons series, sponsored by DuPont, airs weekly on Saturdays at 01:30 and 08:30, Sundays at 14:30 and 20:30 (all times GMT). For programme highlights and an insight into the future of science and technological innovations visit bbc.com/horizonsbusiness.

For all the latest news, behind-the-scenes pictures/videos and updates from Adam Shaw please follow at facebook.com/horizonsTVseries and on twitter at @horizonsbiz.

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