Dyllon Randall and postgraduate students Vukheta Mukhari and Suzanne Lambert with paving stones. Photo: University of Cape Town Pee contains…
Dyllon Randall and postgraduate students Vukheta Mukhari and Suzanne Lambert with paving stones. Photo: University of Cape Town
Pee contains some pretty amazing things. Researchers have for almost a decade known that it is possible to produce bricks from bacteria, sand and urea, a chemical that is present in the urine. Researchers have produced and produced these bricks, now for the first time with human pee.
South African engineering Dyllon Randall of the University of Cape Town, referring to urine as “liquid gold in wastewater” due to its chemical content, has studied various uses for pee and its components. A doctoral student in his laboratory, Suzanne Lambert, has now exposed bricks that are as strong as clay bricks produced with human pee through a process called “microbial carbonate precipitation”. Basically, they start with sandy bacteria that produce an enzyme called ureas. Ureas eat urea in the jaw and produces calcium carbonate, glues the sand into place.
But why pebbles? According to the press release from the University of Cape Town, they are better for the environment as they can be formed at room temperature. In contrast, unburned bricks must be heated to 1400 degrees Celsius and produce a lot of carbon dioxide. Plus, it’s certainly a better use for your pee than you do with it.
We talked to Lambert about how to make pebbles.
Stoneworking installation Photo: Cape Town University
Gizmodo: Where did you get this idea
Suzanne Lambert: My supervisor came up with it while examining how You would make urine fertilizer … But he found that urea was not hydrolized [breaking down with the help of water]. He investigated what to do with urea and found a company using synthetic urea to produce bricks. So why not use urine in urine to do the same?
G: How do you collect urine?
SL: There is a boy’s bathroom opposite the lab. We have a temporary urinal-a can of urine on top. You can loosen the urinal to keep the urine. I just asked the boys at the university to please donate to me.
G: And how is the brick on the brick? Are they as strong as normal bricks?
SL: The structure is similar to normal bricks. They are a little gray. And they are as strong as bricks. The last test I did, I took with them to 2.5 megapascals. There is a basic education that has been tested and he has up to 5 megapascals. A brick can handle about 3 megapascals. It is quite good. Author Note: A military submarine would have to withstand 5 megapascals at 500 meters deep .]
The Pee Bricks Photo: University of Cape Town
G: How is it so solid?
SL: The idea is to imitate something that happens in nature. Let’s take the way coral is formed. Coral has bacteria on it. The bacteria produce an enzyme that makes a reaction to produce calcium carbonate. I grow bacteria and put it in a sand mixture, as the bacteria colonize inside it when you pump the urine through. The bacteria produce an enzyme that converts urea into carbonate and ammonia.
G: Do people think this is weird?
SL: Some people do. Most people are only interested. You can change people’s concept of waste and how we reuse our waste that would otherwise burn us in a sewage treatment plant. It is quite good.
G: Do you think people will buy into this? How do you plan to change your perceptions?
SL: First of all, these kinds of things require people to think about people’s brains and show them that the bricks do not smell. It is an interesting process, and there are so many other applications of these bacteria. It can be cheaper than most methods today. Hopefully, the need for change will come. It may take a little while until there is something that can be applied in our real world, but it’s not that far away. Perhaps it may absorb a part of the market. I’m not sure. You can only hope.
[University of Cape Town]