Bristol Robotics Laboratory Receives Grand Challenges Explorations Funding

Issue date: 08 November 2011

Bristol Robotics Laboratory, Bristol, UK, (a research partnership between UWE Bristol and the University of Bristol) announced today that it will receive funding through Grand Challenges Explorations, an initiative created by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that enables researchers worldwide to test unorthodox ideas that address persistent health and development challenges. Dr Ioannis Ieropoulos, Senior Research Fellow, (UWE Bristol) will pursue an innovative global health research project, titled “Urine-tricity: Electricity from urine”.

Grand Challenges Explorations funds scientists and researchers worldwide to explore ideas that can break the mould in how we solve persistent global health and development challenges. Dr Ioannis Ieropoulos' project is one of 110 Grand Challenges Explorations grants recently announced.

“We believe in the power of innovation—that a single bold idea can pioneer solutions to our greatest health and development challenges,” said Chris Wilson, Director of Global Health Discovery for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “Grand Challenges Explorations seeks to identify and fund these new ideas wherever they come from, allowing scientists, innovators and entrepreneurs to pursue the kinds of creative ideas and novel approaches that could help to accelerate the end of polio, cure HIV infection or improve sanitation.”

Projects that are receiving funding show promise in tackling priority global health issues where solutions do not yet exist. This includes finding effective methods to eliminate or control infectious diseases such as polio and HIV as well as discovering new sanitation technologies.

To learn more about Grand Challenges Explorations, visit

'Urine-tricity: Electricity from urine', is a ground breaking project that aims to use a waste product – urine – with the evolving technology of Microbial Fuel Cells (MFCs) to produce electricity. Dr Ioannis Ieropoulos, has worked with MFC technology for 10 years, using it to generate power for autonomous robots. This project aims to produce electricity from urine through stacks of small-scale Microbial Fuel Cells whilst at the same time cleaning the urine stream and getting rid of pathogens that may be found in urine.

Professor John Greenman, a microbiologist from UWE Bristol, will be part of the cross-disciplinary team working on the project along with Professor Chris Melhuish.

The process doesn't require energy to run, it is totally sustainable after the initial fabrication costs involved in producing the system. This project, if successful, has the potential to achieve energy recovery from urine and other waste-streams, and produce a cleaner effluent, which is dischargeable into the environment without expensive waste water treatments in developing world countries.

About Grand Challenges Explorations

Grand Challenges Explorations is a US$100 million initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Launched in 2008, Grand Challenge Explorations grants have already been awarded to nearly 500 researchers from over 40 countries. The grant program is open to anyone from any discipline and from any organization. The initiative uses an agile, accelerated grant-making process with short, two-page online applications and no preliminary data required. Initial grants of $100,000 are awarded two times a year. Successful projects have an opportunity to receive a follow-on grant of up to US$1 million.


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