Often forget your phone charger? Well, scientists in the United Kingdom have devised a way to conceivably charge a mobile phone with something for users on the go — or, more aptly, for users who have to go. Researchers at the University of the West of England say it’s possible to charge a phone with urine by using microbial fuel cells (MFCs), which convert waste into electricity. The team tested the potential of urine power to energize a Samsung mobile device, effectively using the mechanism to make a phone call, send texts and browse the Internet, according to the Press Association. So far tests have been successful, but the team still needs to perfect the method so that MFCs can provide a full battery charge. Ioannis Ieropoulos, Ph.D., a senior research fellow at the university, compared the unusual design to other alternative forms of charging, such as solar power.
“The beauty of this fuel source is that we are not relying on the erratic nature of the wind or the sun, we are actually re-using waste to create energy,” he said, according to the Telegraph. The research is part of an ongoing project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and U.K. Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. Though Ieropoulos has labeled the urine-powered charger a “world first,” the concept of turning human excrement into battery power has been introduced in the past. In 2005, scientists in Singapore unveiled a battery that could be activated by biological fluids. Yet, unlike the U.K. team’s tech, the Singapore team designed the urine-powered battery with the intention of designing a disposable power source for medical kits, National Geographic reports. However, it seems, scientists have struggled to apply such urine power practically. As one chemical engineer pointed out in November, after three teenage girls unveiled a urine-powered generator, such mechanisms fail to provide enough energy output to match the input. So while a urine-powered phone charger sounds like a resourceful — albeit gross — renewable energy source, it may not be feasible for the typical mobile user.