Sewer Brewer: Solar-Powered Device Turns Urine into Beer

beer urine sewer to brewer
A bottle of beer brewed with water reclaimed from previous waste water projects, University of Ghent, Belgium, July 26. REUTERS/ Francois Lenoir

The transformation of water into wine is believed by some to be Jesus’ first miracle. But what about turning urine into beer? That’s just science.

Researchers at the University of Ghent in Belgium have developed a solar-powered machine that converts urine into drinkable water that is then used to brew beer .

As a demonstration of the technology, the researchers recently set up the machine at the Gentse Feesten music festival in central Ghent. Over the course of ten days, they used the hashtag #PeeForScience to collect 1,000 liters of water from the urine of attendees.

“We’re able to recover fertilizer and drinking water from urine using just a simple process and solar energy,” University of Ghent researcher Sebastiaan Derese told Reuters. “We call it from sewer to brewer.”

The machine works by using solar energy to power a boiler that heats the urine. A membrane then separates the heated urine into water, potassium, nitrogen and phosphorous.

sewer brewer urine beer piss Belgian scientists Marjolein Vanoppen and Sebastiaan Derese demonstrate the use of a machine that turns urine into drinkable water and fertilizer using solar energy, at the University of Ghent, Belgium, July 26. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

Derese hopes the machine can be scaled up to be used at other festivals, as well as in developing countries prone to drought where drinking water and fertilizers are in short supply.

“Human urine offers some interesting possibilities for ammonia and potable water recovery,” states a paper detailing the science behind the machine.

“It was shown that at least 75 percent of the available water could be recovered from non-hydrolyzed human urine without process failure. As such, membrane distillation is a viable alternative for existing urine treatment.”