I’ve done two things with pee — flushed it and pushed it across the counter in a cup for a lab tech to tell me what was the matter with me. I bet your list is about the same. So if urine is “waste,” we’re the ones who are wasting it.
Check out these 10 ways humans have put their urine to better use…
10. Make your race car more durable
In the early 1980s, BMW engineers stored their Formula 1 engine blocks out in the cold and peed on them to help harden the metal so that they could withstand the force of turbocharged racing.
9. Grow new teeth
As a life support engineer at NASA Ames Research Center, it’s Michael Flynn’s job to keep astronauts alive in space, making sure they have the basic necessities like clean water to survive. But launching clean water into space is cost-prohibitive, so for years, Flynn and his team have been working on new ways to recycle waste water into safe, drinking water. SmartPlanet visits Flynn’s lab and looks at how he’s doing it through a process known as “forward osmosis.”
8. Soften leather
Roman laundries used large quantities of pee to bleach fabrics and remove stains. They set containers around the city, and people relieved themselves into these. Then, back at the fullonica, the urine was diluted and dumped over the clothing as workers stomped on them.
Roman dyers also used urine as a mordant to seal dyed colors into the fabric. Other cultures have done the same thing: In the 16th century, English families had special pots for collecting urine, that was then exported by the cask-full to London for dyers there.
7. Sterilize lopped-off body parts
In the 1500s, barber-surgeon Leonardo Fioravanti saw a man’s nose sliced off during an argument. He immediately took a leak on the nose before stitching it back on the poor fellow who had lost it.
Over the centuries, urine has often been effectively used to wash battle wounds. While it’s not completely sterile because of bacteria it picks up leaving the body, urine is undoubtedly cleaner than the water that would have been available in most of those situations.
Clean your teeth
Romans used urine as a tooth-whitening mouthwash, again because of the ammonia. Listurine, anyone?
6. Improve your garden
It turns out pee is an excellent booster ingredient for manure and other composts. Nepalese researchers grew sweet peppers in a variety of fertilizers, and the plants grown in soil with a combination of human urine and compost grew the tallest and yielded the most peppers.
Make a batch of gunpowder
5. Charge your phone
Bacteria feeding on urine produce enough electricity to power a cell phone. Within 2-3 years researchers at the University of the West of England expect to market a “smart toilet.” Use it by day, charge your phone with it by night.
4. Power Robots
The fictional human-powered machines that appear in the The Matrix trilogy are still far from reality — but may not be too far from reality. In October 2013, scientists at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory in the UK announced they had successfully create a prototype robotic “heart” that runs on human urine. A full working robot is still not fully developed. For now, researchers built only the heart itself out of a rubber-like 3D printed material known as TangoPlus, and demonstrated its ability to charge up to 3.5 volts and perform 33 pumps using just 2 milliliters of “fresh” human urine. But their ideas are still flowing for a future fleet of ecologically-friendly robots, or EcoBots, “powered by energy from waste collected from urinals at public lavatories.”
3. Boost your immune system
“Urine therapy” advocates point out that your wastewater is more water than waste, 95% in fact, that it contains many nutrients your body needs, and that the toxins in it are not enough to harm you. In fact, they say, consuming those toxins actually strengthens the body’s immune system. If you’re going to drink your urine, use the first flow of the day, taking a few ounces from the middle of the stream. Sip it slowly instead of chugging it. Make sure you also drink plenty of water that day. Cheers!
Researchers found that each molecule of urea in our urine produces one mole of ammonium bicarbonate and one mole of ammonia, which then absorbs one mole of CO2 from the air we breath, lessening our excessive output of the greenhouse gas. When the CO2 is absorbed, urine gives out another mole of ammonium bicarbonate, which can then be used to fertilize our crops. The olive waste water’s role is to prevent the urine from going stale, maximizing the urine’s use until it is saturated with gas. This unique concoction can be strategically installed in chimneys where CO2 emissions usually pass through. Interesting concept.
1. Fuel a generator
Four teenage girls in Nigeria have created an electrical generator that runs using urine for fuel. 1 liter of urine results in 6 hours of electricity.