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TCTI: Too Crazy To Ignore

Dave Ross

They call it WEE power

Admittedly the microbial battery doesn't generate an overwhelming amount of electricity, but he managed to connect enough of them together with a steady supply of number one running through them. (AP Photo/File)

Hi Mom, you'll never believe what's powering this phone call.

I can imagine just such a conversation a few years from now - with the latest breakthrough in battery technology: Experimental batteries that use microbes to generate electricity. Microbes that feed on something all of us produce in varying levels of abundance.

"Urine is exceptionally good as a fuel."

Dr. Ioannis Ieropoulos of the Bristol Robotics Laboratory in the UK, with help from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has managed to build a battery that takes human urine and turns it into electricity using a series of microbial digesters.

"Inside [...] we've got live organisms. They eat the fuel and by breaking it down, produce electrodes," explains Ieropoulos.

You probably don't want to be working in his laboratory on a hot day - but he's pretty excited about the idea of taking such a common waste and squeezing something useful out of it before throwing it away.

Admittedly the microbial battery doesn't generate an overwhelming amount of electricity, but he managed to connect enough of them together with a steady supply of number one running through them.

"Collectively producing enough energy to be able to power this mobile phone."

It's refreshing to see scientists are finding another way to use number one - other than to get you kicked out of professional sports.

Of course this is intended primarily for the third world - but I can see applications in the first world. Truckers would never have to charge their phones again.

Dave Ross on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM

Tune in to KIRO Radio weekdays at 5am for Dave Ross on Seattle's Morning News.

Dave Ross on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM

  • Dave Ross on KIRO Radio 97.3 FMTune in to KIRO Radio weekdays at 5am for Dave Ross on Seattle's Morning News.

About the Author


Dave Ross hosts the Morning News on KIRO Radio weekdays from 5-9 a.m. Dave has won the national Edward R. Murrow Award for writing five times since he started at KIRO Radio in 1978.

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