At the University of West England, a research team has developed a new kind of energy creating clothing: a pair of socks that use urine for generating electricity.
These socks can store up to 650 milliliters of liquid by using a network of built-in tubes. The liquid is forced through microbial cells by using the pressure created while walking. These tubes, populated with special bacteria, utilize nutrients in the urine and create electricity. The researchers found that the energy produced could power a wireless transmitter that was capable of broadcasting a message every 2 minutes.
Energy creating clothing is not a new concept, but the idea of utilizing urine in this method is new. Usually, an electric pump is required to provide the force necessary to push urine through the cell. However, this process is relatively inefficient. Using the force generated by a person walking means that no energy is spent in creating new energy.
Getting the urine to the socks is another challenge. An option being considered is using clothing that is already wet with urine. Once a way is found, wearers won’t have to worry about handling the urine to feed the system. Saving urine to fill the system, for example, would be inefficient, and could complicate the system.
The inspiration behind this research and invention was a single-cycle circulation, much like a closed fish circulatory system. In the future, it is possible to see this type of energy creating clothing evolve into wearable transmission system, which could be used to send GPS coordinates. The clothing would then be useful for survival kits, military equipment, or other gear of the outdoors.