POWER TO THE PEE-PLE

URINE CHARGE: SPIN-OUT VEN­TURE TO BRING TO MAR­KET UWE’S TECH­NOL­OGY THAT TURNS URINE INTO ELEC­TRIC­ITY TO HELP LIGHT HOMES AND CHARGE PHONES

Bristol Post - - FRONT PAGE - Han­nah BAKER Busi­ness edi­tor han­nah.baker@reach­plc.com

TECH­NOL­OGY to turn urine into elec­tric­ity that was de­vel­oped at UWE 17 years ago is on the verge of be­ing be­ing com­mer­cialised.

A spin-out ven­ture has been formed to bring Pee Power, which emerged from a PhD re­search project in the early 2000s, to mar­ket.

The tech de­vel­oped at the Bris­tol Robotics Lab­o­ra­tory (BRL) uses or­ganic ma­te­rial found in urine as a fuel, with the waste wa­ter be­ing chan­nelled in such a way that it cre­ates elec­tric­ity.

The tech­nol­ogy can pro­duce enough en­ergy to power light­ing or charge phones, and also cre­ates a plant fer­tiliser as a nat­u­ral by-prod­uct.

Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foun­da­tion, EPSRC and the EU, the sys­tem has al­ready been tri­alled at Glas­ton­bury Fes­ti­val and used to pro­vide light­ing for toi­let blocks at schools in Uganda and Kenya.

Pro­fes­sor Ioan­nis Ieropou­los, di­rec­tor of the Bris­tol BioEn­ergy Cen­tre at BRL and cre­ator of the tech­nol­ogy, says it could even­tu­ally be in­stalled in refugee camps, slums and hos­pi­tals.

He said: “Our de­vel­op­ment of this 100year old Mi­cro­bial Fuel Cell tech­nol­ogy [is] al­most ready for the com­mer­cial world.

“This means it can now be­gin to serve so­ci­ety, which is what we set out to do in the first place, and we are now set­ting up the ve­hi­cle for pro­duc­ing vol­ume.”

The UWE spin-out ven­ture Ro­bial, which was launched this week at the Gates Foun­da­tion’s Rein­vented Toi­let Expo in Bei­jing, is work­ing to­wards us­ing the tech to help some of the world’s poor­est na­tions.

Pro­to­types have been ex­hib­ited to in­ter­na­tional pub­lic and pri­vate-sec­tor lead­ers at the expo, which is run­ning un­til 8 Novem­ber.

The Ro­bial team has also un­veiled pi­lottested tech­nolo­gies for safe san­i­ta­tion that don’t re­quire wa­ter or sewer con­nec­tions.

John Green­man, emer­i­tus pro­fes­sor of mi­cro­bi­ol­ogy at UWE Bris­tol, says it is a “sig­nif­i­cant step” in the de­vel­op­ment, com­mer­cial­i­sa­tion, and adop­tion of toi­let tech­nol­ogy to meet the san­i­ta­tion needs of the world’s poor­est com­mu­ni­ties.

He said: “We are thrilled to see that Pee Power is part of a wave of tech­nolo­gies from across the globe that are in­no­va­tive ap­proaches to san­i­ta­tion.”

Ro­bial has been formed with the sup­port of in­no­va­tion and trans­for­ma­tion con­sul­tancy Ox­en­tia, which is help­ing to grow the po­ten­tial of the tech­nol­ogy.

It will first tar­get the hu­man­i­tar­ian sec­tor be­fore mov­ing into other mar­kets.

Dr Bruno Reynolds, se­nior con­sul­tant at Ox­en­tia, said: “Ro­bial has the po­ten­tial to trans­form the lives of bil­lions who cur­rently do not have ac­cess to sewage-net­worked san­i­ta­tion.

“In build­ing a busi­ness based on this tech­nol­ogy, we ex­pect to at­tract in­vestors who share our goal of im­prov­ing the safety and san­i­ta­tion of bil­lions of peo­ple all over the world.”

Pro­fes­sor Martin Boddy, pro vice-chan­cel­lor for re­search and en­ter­prise at UWE Bris­tol, added: “[The tech­nol­ogy] has the po­ten­tial to have a huge im­pact on the lives of peo­ple liv­ing in com­mu­ni­ties in the de­vel­op­ing world and other ap­pli­ca­tions be­yond.

“Pee Power will con­tinue to have the uni­ver­sity’s sup­port and back­ing as it con­tin­ues to the next phase of its jour­ney.”

Pee Power tech­nol­ogy was de­vel­oped at UWE over the last 17 years and has been tri­alled at Glas­ton­bury and schools in Africa

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