Belgian researchers have invented a solar-powered machine that turns urine into potable water and fertiliser.
The technology, by a team from the University of Ghent, was recently demonstrated at a ten-day music festival in the city of Ghent, where it successfully recovered 1,000 litres of water from the urine of festival visitors. This water was subsequently used by a local brewery to make beer.
However, the real purpose of the device is to provide drinkable water in developing countries where there is no regular access to electricity.
"We're able to recover fertiliser and drinking water from urine using just a simple process and solar energy," said University of Ghent researcher Sebastiaan Derese.
The machine separates the water from other components of the urine using a special membrane. The researchers also said the machine is extremely energy-efficient, hence suitable for use in off-grid areas.
It collects urine in a tank heated by the solar energy. The warm urine is then transported through the membrane where nutrients such as potassium, nitrogen and phosphorus are separated.
The team wants to test the machine at sports venues and airports before deploying it in rural areas of developing countries to help solve both the shortage of water and need for fertilisers in agriculture.