Urine Now Used to Generate Electricity

May 12, 2015

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. convert / kənˈvɜrt / (v.) – to transform one thing to another
Example: Solar panels can convert the sun’s energy into electricity.

2. potentially / pəˈtɛn ʃə li / (adv.) – possibly or likely to happen
Example: Some human activities can potentially harm the environment.

3. stack / stæk / (n.) – a pile of things that are placed one above the other
Example: I arranged the books in a stack.

4. deplete / dɪˈplit / (v.) – to decrease in number or quantity
Example: The country’s energy supply is expected to deplete in the coming years.

5. squeamish / ˈskwiːmɪʃ / (adj.) – easily grossed out or disgusted
Example: Jack is squeamish about frogs and lizards.


Read the text below.
Researchers at the Bristol-based University of the West of England (UWE) have recently developed a prototype toilet that can convert urine directly into electricity. 

With the experiment, the researchers aimed to prove that urine can produce electricity. They also wanted to show that the prototype can potentially be used to light cubicles in international refugee camps.

To make the experiment look realistic, the researchers made the toilet look a lot like the ones used in refugee camps. The toilet can be found near the university’s Students Union bar, making it convenient for the students and staff members to use.

The toilet is installed with stacks of microbial fuel cells (MFCs). The live bacteria inside the fuel cells feed on urine for their own growth and maintenance. In effect, the MFC converts the urine directly into electricity, producing what researchers call “urine-tricity” or “pee power.”

According to experts, urine-tricity is environment-friendly as it does not require the use of fossil fuels. Fossil fuel is a common source of energy. However, using it produces pollutants that  harm the environment.

The resources for urine-tricity are also readily available, unlike fossil fuels whose resources are already depleting. Currently, the world population produces around 10.5 billion liters of urine each day.

Many people may not take the idea of urine-tricity seriously because of the squeamish feeling they get when talking about urine. Nonetheless, the researchers hope that the benefits of this innovation may encourage people to be more open to this idea.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Do you approve of the idea of using urine as an energy source? Why or why not?
·         Do you think this innovation can be useful in your country? Why is that so?

Discussion B

·         Is there a sufficient supply of energy in your community? Why is that so?
·         What do you do to conserve energy? Kindly discuss your answer.

May 12, 2015