What were we thinking getting rid of our urine all those years, when we could be using it to power electric socks?
A team of researchers from the University of West England has developed a pair of socks that use urine to generate electricity.
The new socks are able to store as much as 648 milliliters of urine, almost 22 ounces, using a network of integrated tubes. When the user walks, the liquid is forced through microbial fuel cells that contain bacteria that consume the nutrients in urine and create electricity in that process. In experiments, the researchers were able to use the socks to power a wireless transmitter, broadcasting a message every two minutes.
It's not a totally new idea to use urine in the generation of electricity, although the techniques involved normally use an electric pump to provide the pressure to force the urine through the fuel cell, making the process pretty inefficient. When the pressure is being created by the users foot, however, electricity isn't being used in the process, only created.
Of course, getting urine into the socks in the first place is another situation entirely. Thankfully, the team is avoiding the use of a series of tubes, and instead envisages clothing that already has urine incorporated, so people don't have to worry about handling it themselves.
The research, which uses as its inspiration a closed fish circulatory system known as single cycle circulation, was published in Bioinspiration and Biometrics. With refinement and development, future uses could include a wearable transmission system that could relay a person's coordinates, and such socks might show up in outdoor gear, military equipment or survival kits.