Officials create electricity on toilet

The Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment is going to turn urine into energy. The electricity generated will be used to heat  the office building on the Rijnstraat in The Hague. The office is expected to open in about two years.One fifth of the building will be equipped with waterless urinals that collect the urine. The urine is guided along a fuel cell. Bacteria, growing on an electrode within the cell,  break down the organic substances in the urine and convert them into electricity. Also, the waste substances, such as ammonia are removed during this process, and nitrogen and phosphates are recovered from the urine.

waterless urinals

waterless urinals
Benjamin Berne
Flickr

The urine fuel cell is about the size of a shoebox. The system is perceived as the most environmentally friendly method to purify urine. The existence of the bacteria that can generate electricity was only discovered in 2000.

Another part of the building will be equipped with vacuüm toilets. These toilets use air instead of water to flush. This makes for very concentrated waste water, which can be used to generate biogas. This biogas will also be used to heat the building.

It’s the first time the system will be implemented on such a large scale. Since April the system is being tested in Leeuwarden in the Wetterskip Fryslân office with 50 employees. The test subjects don’t notice any difference and even prefer the new system, because it doesn’t require flushing, so you don’t need to touch anything, according to the developers.

Earlier it was announced that the city of Amsterdam is also working on a better purification of sewage. Amsterdam is building a factory that will recover phosphate from the feces in sewage. The recovered phosphate will be sold as raw material to fertilizer manufacturers.