Researchers at the University of Ghent in Belgium have made a solar powered machine that converts urine into drinkable water and fertilizers.
As proof of concept, the researchers tested the machine on festival visitors, during a music festival in Ghent. The festival resulted in one thousand liters of water that was recovered from the visitors’ urine, according to the researchers.
The urine is first stored in a large tank that is heated by a solar powered boiler. The content is then filtered so that the water is recovered and other substances such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium are separated.
The use of solar power certainly increase the environmental and sustainability aspects of the machine, but this isn’t the most fascinating aspect of this pee-converter – it’s the use of a process of membrane distillation capable of removing around 95% of the ammonia found in urine.
“Human urine offers some interesting possibilities for ammonia and potable water recovery,” the team writes in a press release. “Membrane distillation holds possible advantages over existing urine treatment technologies, specifically regarding ammonia recovery.”
“The possibility of potable water production was investigated in human urine by assessing the permeate water quality, maximum recovery, and mid-term process stability,” they add. “It was shown that at least 75% of the available water could be recovered from non-hydrolyzed human urine without process failure. As such, membrane distillation is a viable alternative for existing urine treatment.”
A machine like this could be used in developing countries and in rural areas where the need for drinking water is large and the power supply inadequate, according to the researchers.
The goal now is to install larger versions of the machine at airports and sports stadiums. The water that was filtered out at the music festival will now be used in the production of Belgian beer.
Full nitrogen recovery and potable water production from human urine by membrane distillation