Science has been playing with your piss, folks, and it’s figured out how to turn it into something useful: bricks. How do they do it? Strap yourselves in, because it’s a wild ride.
Researchers from the University of Cape Town have used a process called microbial carbonate precipitation to create the bio bricks, which involves a combination of sand, bacteria, and steaming hot human piss. The mixture is then left in a mold to “grow” similar to the natural formation of a seashell, which takes six to eight days.
While bio-bricks are already being manufactured in the US with synthetic urine, these are the first to be created with real human pee, which is collected from male students at the South African university via a special urinal. Fun!
The project, helmed by two students and a lecturer, was funded by the government-run Water Research Council and was originally planned to use synthetic urea, but, uh, things really took a turn for the real.
“I was always curious to know why don’t we use urine to do the same thing,” lecturer Dyllon Randall told AFP. “The simple answer is: ‘Yes, we can’.”
The piss brick is said to be just as sturdy as a traditional clay or concrete brick, which it could one day replace, but not until the process becomes more efficient. Right now, it takes a staggering 30 litres of human wee wee just to make one brick.
“We basically made the first bio-brick from real urine,” Randall said. “This process is amazing because essentially what we’ve done is we grew bricks at room temperature.”
Worried about your future piss brick house stinking like a nightclub men’s room? Don’t! According to the team, the pee smell disappears after a few days of drying.
To be fair, this is a pretty major accomplishment and could one day redefine how we build. If we can funnel everyone’s piss into big brick factories, it could stop the tons of greenhouse gasses associated with traditional brick manufacturing – which relies on kilns heated to 1,400 degrees Celsius to dry them – from being spewed into the atmosphere.
Think about that next time you take a leak.