Pee Power field trial success in rural Uganda

Researchers from UWE Bristol prove they can transform waste water and urine into electricity in developing countries
27th September 2017

Researchers at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol)’s Bristol Robotics Lab, along with the Bristol BioEnergy Centre (BBiC), has announced success in field-testing its unique tech that transforms urine and wastewater into electricity in a rural village in Uganda.

“It is simply wonderful that we can now demonstrate Pee Power working in a remote area of a developing country”

 

The tech, which has already proved a success at Glastonbury Festival, was being tested as a potential solution to the problem of generating reliable electricity in developing countries – especially for those living in remote villages.

Professor Ioannis Ieropoulos (pictured right), Director of the BBiC at UWE Bristol, says, “It is simply wonderful that we can now demonstrate Pee Power working in a remote area of a developing country; this test is an important milestone in our work.”

Biochemical energy

Working with the Sesame Girls School in Kisoro this summer, the research team were able to retrofit the school’s previously unlit toilet block with Pee Power’s Microbial Fuel Cell (MFC) tech. The fuel cell works by employing live microbes which feed on the urine, transforming the biochemical energy produced from the process into electricity.

“Despite a few logistical challenges, we were thrilled to see that the technology works”

 

The electricity generated from Pee Power proved sufficient to improve safety for the school children by lighting both the outside of the building and the pathway leading to the block – and each toilet cubicle is now fitted with motion sensors to switch on the newly fitted light inside when needed.

Local workers got involved too – helping to construct a small building to house the MFC stacks that generate the power from the urine (pictured left).

The team, which consisted of Dr Tosin Obata, Patrick Brinson and Matt Rudd, said: “It was fantastic once we had finished the construction to see that the power worked brilliantly. We were staying at a guest house a kilometre away and the block was clearly visible at night time.

“There were some challenges. Simply getting the MFC stacks to such a remote location meant that our technology was transported to the location across dirt tracks on a bus shared with animals.

“Over the coming years we have plans to take Pee Power to various sites that present us with different challenges”

 

“We had to drill through reinforced concrete to create the access for the pipework that transported the urine to the newly constructed building that housed the MFC stacks. But, despite a few logistical challenges, we were thrilled to see that the technology works.”

A pee powered future

This was an important test in the feasibility of Pee Power, and there are now further plans for this innovative tech, as Ioannis explains: “Over the coming years we have plans to take Pee Power to various sites that present us with different challenges in countries such as India, Nepal, Kenya, Sierra Leone and Burkina Faso to bring power and sanitation treatment to places where it is most needed.

“A critical element of the field trials is longevity. By installing Pee Power and having it running in remote areas we can test its long-term efficacy and fine tune it to different environments as we learn more about the technology’s limits outside the lab.”

To stay up to date with the Pee Power project, check out the project on the Bristol Robotics Lab website or follow them on Twitter here: @BristolRobotLab.