'Pee Power' showcased as part of the 80th anniversary series of the Royal Institution' Christmas Lectures

Issue date: 14 December 2016


The research team behind 'Pee Power' based at Bristol BioEnergy Centre, Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL) at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol), showcased their pioneering technology at the Royal Institution's 2016 CHRISTMAS LECTURES filmed in their world-famous lecture theatre and due for broadcast on 26 December 2016.

This year is the 80th anniversary of the first ever UK television broadcast of the Royal Institution's CHRISTMAS LECTURES. This year's title is “Supercharged: Fuelling the Future”, looking at what energy is, how we use it and how we store it.

All three CHRISTMAS LECTURES this year will be presented by Professor Saiful Islam, a professor of materials chemistry at the University of Bath, who focuses much of his work on developing new materials for batteries, fuel cells and solar cells. He will speak on how materials are enabling renewable technologies.

Before filming took place, the team from UWE Bristol's BioEnergy Centre set up a demonstration urinal in the toilets at the Royal Institution and this experiment demonstrated how Pee Power can charge up a mobile phone.

Professor Ioannis Ieropoulos, Director of the Bristol Centre for BioEnergy and the lead researcher on the Pee Power project, said, “For us it is a privilege to be able to have the Microbial Fuel Cell technology that we have developed at UWE Bristol, included in the first Christmas lecture for 2016 at one of the most important and historic Institutions for introducing new technologies and teaching science to the general public in the UK.

“We are also delighted that we have the chance to demonstrate a tangible example to the audience at the Royal Institution. It is a great way for us to take our work to a wider audience.

"We will demonstrate how the technology produces real valuable energy shown as a mobile phone charging station. We will set up the station for a whole week prior to the lectures so that we can collect and process 'fuel'.

“The microbial fuel cells (mfcs) work by employing live microbes which feed on urine (the fuel) for their own growth and maintenance. The MFC is in effect a system which taps a portion of that biochemical energy used for microbial growth, and converts that directly into electricity - what we call Pee Power®. This technology is about as green as it gets, as we do not need to utilise fossil fuels and we are effectively using a waste product that will always be in plentiful supply.”

Other renewable technologies will be showcased including small scale wind turbines and photovoltaic solar panels.

The Pee Power team is working with the Gates Foundation, Oxfam and global partners to exploit the technology to provide light and water treatment for sanitation in refugee camps, areas of the world that are off grid or lacking in sanitation infrastructure and eventually for all markets.

Professor Ieropoulos said, “Although we are currently concentrating on developing prototypes with partners across the globe for disaster areas, we can also foresee a time when small units may well make their way into domestic environments in developed countries."

Bristol Robotics Laboratory is a collaborative partnership between the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) and the University of Bristol.

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