In the quest for alternative, small-scale energy producing technology, one company has invented a device that can power electronics with something you've been just flushing down the toilet all this time--your pee. The portable, pee-powered battery, called MetalCell, can create enough of a charge to power a laptop for over four hours. The technology, while seeming to be modern, is actually reminiscent of an electricity producing method used close to 2 thousand years ago.
According to Popular Science, the battery was designed by a South Korean company for military situations where it may be hard to find power for electronic gadgets. It's small enough to be transported easily and can produce energy to run equipment when no other sources are available.
Aside from urine, the MetalCell can produce electricity with just saltwater. Inside the battery are magnesium plates which react with sodium to generate a small amount of electricity. A report on the MetalCell's capabilities says the chemical reaction may be a more convenient power generating method other methods are unavailable:
The device, known as MetalCell, is a backup power source that runs on sodium and can keep a laptop charged for more than four hours, its maker says. The design is relatively simple: a small, ruggedized box with magnesium plates inside. If an electrical gadget -- anything from a computer to a flashlight -- runs out of energy, a soldier on the battlefield could pour saltwater into the MetalCell and use the device as an emergency power source.
This method of producing a small amount of electricity resembles technology that dates back to nearly 2 thousand years. An artifact was discovered bearing similar qualities that may have been used to generate low-level voltage. Known as Baghdad Batteries, terracotta jars were found containing a copper cylinder and an iron rod that some believe could produce electricity when an acidic substance, like lemon juice, was added.
Just how much electricity the MetalCell can produce, and how readily available the materials needed to make are, could determine its viability in non-military applications. While it may not be superior to renewable sources like wind or solar generated power for long term energy needs, this pee-powered device could be an alternative in the future--or for when nature calls.