Turkish scientists produce electricity using urine from marijuana consumers

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Pre-legalization, the easiest way to catch someone consuming marijuana was to force them to take a urine test and analyze for any presence of marijuana components.

Now, post-legalization, scientists have uncovered another use of the urine test — by using the components within urine to produce electricity.

In a new study, published in Biosource Technology Reports, Turkish scientists have successfully remove cannabis metabolites from the urine of pot consumers to generate a household necessity.

The experiment was conducted using microbial fuel cells (MFC), a bio-electrochemical instrument that put chemical compounds and select bacteria together to produce electricity. The technology was developed to create alternative and sustainable sources of energy in developing countries, to replace fossil fuels such as coal and oil.

According to the study, MFCs work by forcing an electric current through the urine to have a chemical reaction, which splits the components within the product. The researchers compared the processes with synthetic and real THC-infused urine and found that the latter not only produced a voltage but also eliminated 60 per cent of the COOH-THC metabolite.

“Untreated urine samples pooled from drug-free male donors produced 0.35 V of peak electricity in the fuel cells,” the researchers wrote. “When the urine samples were replaced with those from cannabis users (containing 170 ng/mL of COOH-THC), the maximum voltage of 0.23 V was achieved.”

According to the researchers, when THC metabolites from marijuana enter wastewater, surface water or tap water, it can make it hard for aquatic organization to break down toxic substances due to oxidative stress. Consequently, using the MFCs to produce electricity as well as eliminate 60 per cent of the metabolites isn’t just beneficial for the average household but also for the environment as a whole.

“The results showed that MFCs can be used for treatment of cannabis metabolites found in human urine to prevent contamination of natural ecosystems with these resilient and toxic metabolites,” they said. “Moreover, although in small levels, voltage generation provides an added-value that could be used to power certain applications in the treatment plants.”

While the results can appear as a breakthrough, the concept of developing electricity from urine has been around for a while. MFCs can also be used to develop electricity from clean urine, simply by isolating hydrogen components, purifying them and using it in a generator.

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