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Urine-activated origami microbial fuel cells to signal proof of life

Winfield, Jonathan; Chambers, Lily D.; Rossiter, Jonathan; Greenman, John; Ieropoulos, Ioannis

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Lily D. Chambers

Jonathan Rossiter

Yannis Ieropoulos
Professor in Bioenergy & Director of B-B


© The Royal Society of Chemistry 2015. The adaptability and practicality of microbial fuel cells (MFCs) are highly desirable traits in the search for alternative sources of energy. An innovative application for the technology could be to power portable emergency locator transmitters (ELTs). Such devices would ideally need to be lightweight, robust and fast-in terms of response. Urine is an abundant resource, and with MFCs, could be the ideal fuel for powering ELTs, with the compelling advantage of also indicating proof of life. We developed novel origami tetrahedron MFCs (TP-MPFCs) using photocopier paper to test different urine-based inoculants. When inoculated with urine extracted from the anode chambers of working MFCs a stack of 6 abiotic MFCs produced a usable working voltage after just 3 h 15 min; enough to energise a power management system. The anodes of established TP-MFCs were then removed and air-dried for 7 days before being inserted into new paper reactors and refrigerated. After 4 weeks, these MFCs displayed an immediate response to fresh urine and achieved a functional working voltage in just 35 minutes. Two paper MFCs connected in parallel were able to transmit 85 radio signals and in a series configuration 238 broadcasts over 24 hours. These findings demonstrate that simple, inexpensive, lightweight paper MFCs can be employed as urine-activated, "proof of life" reporting systems. This journal is


Winfield, J., Chambers, L. D., Rossiter, J., Greenman, J., & Ieropoulos, I. (2015). Urine-activated origami microbial fuel cells to signal proof of life. Journal of Materials Chemistry A, 3(13), 7058-7065.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 20, 2015
Online Publication Date Feb 20, 2015
Publication Date Apr 7, 2015
Deposit Date Mar 12, 2015
Publicly Available Date Feb 18, 2016
Journal Journal of Materials Chemistry A
Print ISSN 2050-7488
Electronic ISSN 2050-7496
Publisher Royal Society of Chemistry
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 3
Issue 13
Pages 7058-7065
Keywords microbial fuel cell, urine, origami, proof of life
Public URL
Publisher URL


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