A team of researchers from Ghent University in Belgium have created a machine that can turn urine into drinking water and fertilizer using solar power.

The researchers tested the new technology at an outdoor music festival, encouraging participants to share their views on social media with the hashtag #peeforscience. The experiment successfully recovered 1,000 litres of unconsumed water, which they said will be used to make Belgian beer.

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The machine heats the urine using electricity generated by solar panels, and then passes the liquid through a membrane which separates out the water as well as nutrients like nitrogen and potassium, which can be used to make fertilizers.

Lead researcher, Sebastiaan Derese, from the department of of Applied Analytical and Physical Chemistry wrote, “Human urine offers some interesting possibilities for ammonia and potable water recovery. Membrane distillation holds possible advantages over existing urine treatment technologies, specifically regarding ammonia recovery.”

Although the initial experiment involved party-goers, the researchers believe the technology could be used in rural areas and developing countries. They plan to scale up the machine and test it in airports and sporting centres.

Details on the technology are published on the Derese’s university home page.

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