Researchers Have Made Socks That Use Urine to Create Electricity

Illustration for article titled Researchers Have Made Socks That Use Urine to Create Electricity

Your urine may be of more use kept about your person. At least, that’s what a team of researchers from the University of the West of England think, because they’ve made a pair of socks that use the liquid to generate electricity.


The new sock contains a network of integrated tubes that can hold up to 648 milliliters of urine. The act of walking forces the liquid through microbial fuel cells, which contain bacteria that take delight in consuming the nutrients held in your pee, creating electricity in the process. In a series of experiments, published in Bioinspiration & Biomimetics, the team shows that the socks are capable of powering a wireless transmitter which could broadcast a message every two minutes.

Using urine to create electricity isn’t a new idea, but usually the techniques use an electric pump to force the urine though the fuel cell. This time, it’s humble human foot power that provides that pressure—each step forces a little urine around the silicone tubes in the sock’s heel.

If you’re wondering how you might get the urine into the socks, though, wonder no longer. “We envisage gear or clothing that already has or could have excretion incorporated, without people having to worry about collecting or handling their urine,” explains Ioannis Ieropoulos, one of the researchers, to New Scientist. Nice.

[Bioinspiration & Biomimetics via New Scientist]

Image by igor.stevanovic/Shutterstock



Were they sitting around in the lab when somebody said “hey, we have a lot of jars of urine. I wonder what we could do with it?”.

This seems like a wildly over-engineered solution for such a tiny amount of power generation, given that much simpler ways of generating power from body movement already exist. Heck, you could probably harvest more power from ambient RF. And what happens if the socks spring a leak? And I notice they skate around the whole “excretion incorporated” question. They are basically talking about a catheter, right. Have you ever tried walking with a catheter?

I confidently predict that this will never be heard of again, unless it gets nominated for an Ig Nobel Prize.