New Sock Technology Uses Urine to Generate Electricity

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The average person urinates about seven times a day and a healthy adult bladder holds about 16 ounces, which means that every day you could be wasting 112 ounces of a viable energy source. Scientists have been exploring the power of pee for years, and now researchers from the University of the West of England have ventured into the realm of urine wearables, developing sock technology that uses pee to generate electricity. 

The "self-sufficient" system uses a network of tiny tubes inspired by the cardiovascular system of fish, with the wearer's footsteps acting as the pump to get the pee flowing. The pee then moves through 24 microbial fuel cells (MFCs) where bacteria create electricity from the nutrients, which is then stored in two supercapacitors. 

In an article recently published in the journal Bioinspiration & Biomimetics, the researchers share their findings and possible uses for the wearable technology. "Having already powered a mobile phone with MFCs using urine as fuel, we wanted to see if we could replicate this success in wearable technology," Ioannis Ieropoulos of UWE Bristol said.

I A Ieropoulos et al. // © 2015 IOP Publishing Ltd

The team was able to use the socks to power a wireless transmitter, and they are confident that the technology is a promising option for the future, writing that it "opens a new avenue for research in the utilization of waste products for powering portable as well as wearable electronics."

You might be wondering where the urine comes from or assumed that it originates from the wearer of the sock tubes. But you'd be wrong. Ieropoulos tells New Scientist that the vision is for clothing that "already has or could have excretion incorporated, without people having to worry about collecting or handling their urine." In other words, the socks would come with someone else's pee.