As the mom of an infant and a toddler, I get more than enough of No. 1s and No. 2s daily. But now I’m getting another dose of it. This time at work with some unusual, let’s call it, energy production news. Scientists with Bristrol Robotics Laboratory have developed a way to charge cell phones using urine as the power source to generate electricity. First thought? Eeww! Second thought? Why? And, how? “One product that we can be sure of an unending supply of is our own urine. By harnessing this power as urine passes through a cascade of microbial fuel cells [MFCs], we have managed to charge a Samsung mobile phone,” Dr. Ioannis Ieropoulos, of UWE Bristol, said in a news release. “The beauty of this fuel source is that we are not relying on the erratic nature of the wind or the sun; we are actually reusing waste to create energy.” The MFC essentially turns organic matter into electricity via the metabolism of live microorganisms, the release said, with the electricity being a byproduct of the microbes’ life cycle. More energy is generated based on the more they eat. But scientists say they have only been able to store and accumulate low levels of energy into capacitors for short-charge/discharge cycles. But the power generated has been enough to send text messages, surf the Internet, and make a short phone call, which Ieropoulos said uses most of the energy. “But we will get to the place where we can charge a battery for longer periods,” he added. “The concept has been tested, and it works. It's now for us to develop and refine the process so that we can develop MFCs to fully charge a battery.” The scientists, who are seeking partners in the US and South Africa to create a “smart toilet,” believe the technology has potential for use in domestic bathrooms. Enough energy could be created to power showers and lights, for example, according to the release. Sounds like some smart folks had way too much time on their hands. But nonetheless, the project – funded by the Gates Foundation, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, and the Technology Strategy Board – is an attention grabber. It certainly has me thinking about lower electricity bills, smart potty-training toilets, and smart diaper disposal systems. Combine this new technology with others like the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s “brown gold” (Accelerated Renewable Energy) project, and imagine the possibilities. Using a US $7 million grant from the US Department of Agriculture Biomass Research and Development Initiative, the university is working with companies on a renewable energy project involving cow manure at the Maple Leaf Dairy in Manitowoc County, Wisc. “After small plant fibers in the manure are separated out and anaerobically digested to create biogas, liquids from the digestion process are used to fertilize crops, while leftover solids can be converted into useful chemicals and bioplastics,” states an article published on the university’s Wisconsin Energy Institute website. “Larger plant fibers, on the other hand, make great animal bedding and mulch, not to mention a starting material for ethanol fermentation.” Renewable energy may not be called a game changer or spark energy revolutions like unconventional shale plays. But with projects like these, the renewables are definitely making headlines. Contact the author, Velda Addison,