Hydraulic fracking, which is being used to mine natural gas and petroleum deep within the earth's core, is soon expected to make the U.S. energy independent for the first time since the 1970s.
And now a new source of energy has been discovered, tested, and proven effective: urine.
A research team at the UK's University of Bristol has been able to power a number of everyday electronic devices-including cell phones, electric razors and toothbrushes, and light fixtures-using "urine power." According to an engineer on the project, Loannis Leropoulous, "Using urine to produce electricity is about as eco [or green and sustainable] as it gets."
The research, which was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, was able to convert urine into fuel through the use of a microbial fuel cell. The hope is that eventually these fuel cells will be marketed and used domestically to help supplement the electricity supplied to homes and commercial facilities.
"This technology allows us to turn something that was viewed as waste into something that is as useful as electricity," adds Leropoulous.
In a related development, urine fuel cells will be used to heat new office buildings in the Hague, the government seat of the Netherlands. The building, which is expected to open in about two years, will have waterless urinals in the men's restrooms.
"Instead of being treated as waste, the urine from the waterless urinals will be stored and collected for conversion into fuel cells," says Klaus Reichardt, CEO and founder of Waterless Co, makers of no-water urinal systems. "If this succeeds-and studies are proving very hopeful-this can be a very significant development . . . helping to reduce our demand for nonsustainable energy sources and accessing an organic substance that will always be available."