Urine-Powered Smart Socks: Pee Power Saves Energy

Wearable technology has many branches on its dynamic tree, and they extend and overlap into many modern industries and trends including self-sustainable energy. But that's all about wind and solar power and other such concepts, or at least it has been up until now. Consider self-sustaining energy and the idea of urine as fuel. Before you throw up, keep in mind that self-sustainable energy is a major item on the agenda of many wearable tech companies. Some inventors have already ventured into fueling cell phones and robots with that which impolite society might refer to as pee power!

The Bristol BioEnergy Centre and Smart Socks

If you really think about it, utilizing naturally available resources puts human beings in sync with Mother Nature. The Bristol BioEnergy Centre at the University of West of England in Bristol is focused on transforming technology that utilizes waste into electricity, and their scientists have developed a pair of smart socks, which can generate electricity via urine.

How do these smart socks work?

Twenty-four individual microbial fuel cells (MFC), which contain waste fluid-consuming bacteria (urine) are embedded within these smart socks as well as a built-in wireless transmitter that sends the message, "First Wearable MFC"  every two minutes to the controlled receiver of a PC. These are fuel cells which transform chemical energy into electricity. They work by allowing bacteria to oxidize and reduce organic molecules.


Urine-Powered SocksUrine-Powered Socks

The socks' design is based on the anatomy of the heart and circulatory system of a fish. The manual pump maintains the urine level within the miicrobial cells and uses a series of tubes strategically placed under the heels of each sock, which compress with each and every step the wearer takes. This experiment totally depends on human activity to circulate the urine over the microbial fuel cells.


Sock IllustrationSock Illustration

Associate professor at the Bristol Robotic Laboratory, Professsor Ioannis  Ieropoulos, who led the reserach for the creation of these smart socks said: "It opens up the possibilities for using urine to power wearable devices." Funding for this and other Urintricity projects came from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (UK EPSRC). His work has resulted in over 40 peer-reviewed publications and the findings of the sock project were published in the journal, Bioinspiration and Biomimetics.

In his own words:

"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. We also wanted the system to be entirely self-sufficent, running only on human power – using urine as fuel and the action of the foot as the pump."


Professor IeropoulosProfessor Ieropoulos

Future ramifications of these urine-powered socks

These socks may not hit the commercial market soon, but they stand as proud testimony that a totally human-powered, self-sustained system may be more effective and practical in some instances than smart-phone batteries.

One question lingers: How do you really feel about this?

Either you're in or you're out!

Is pee power here to stay? If so, please explain.

Closing thoughts  on self-sustaining energy:

We cannot hope to create a sustainable culture  with any but sustainable souls. ~ Derrick Jensen