Innovation often begins with a meaningful observation. In the case of Cho Jae-weon, professor of urban and environmental engineering at Ulsan National University of Science and Technology (UNIST) in South Korea, the idea of creating a new digital currency came from a simple biological fact: everyone poops.
By developing a system that generates energy from feces, the professor found a way to turn shit into digital gold – a concept he dubbed Feces Standard Money. The currency is called the Ggool, which means honey in Korean. “I wanted everyone to be able to add value and contribute to society, regardless of their wealth and age,” Cho explains.
Cho has been studying the transformation of human feces into power and money since 2015. Previously little known, his project has gained global attention as digital currencies have captured the attention of the general public. Tech sites have referred to its currency as “literal shitcoin,” a derogatory term usually reserved for worthless cryptocurrencies.
In 2018, to bring his idea to life, Cho built a two-story experimental complex on the university’s campus and outfitted it with rooms and toilets that produce renewable energy from human feces.
Three toilets, called “BeeVi” (a combination of the words “bee” and “vision”), pump human excreta into an underground storage tank, where it is broken down into methane by microorganisms. The methane is then burned to supply the adjacent chambers. “When we fart, we emit methane which can be used as bioenergy,” explains Cho. Stools can also produce methane, which can fuel a water heater. » What remains of the faeces can be used as manure.
“A healthy individual defecates an average of 500 grams of material per day, which can produce around 50 liters of methane,” he explains. A person’s daily output can be around 0.5 kWh of electricity, which is enough for an electric bus to travel 500 meters or for an electric car to travel 3 kilometers. “
After using the bathroom, users must scan a QR code to get their reward of 10 Ggool per day. “The 10 Ggools refer to a person’s daily production value,” explains the professor. I wanted to differentiate the value of the Ggool from other currencies like the US dollar, Korean won, and bitcoin, and get people to rethink the current monetary system. “
Users can spend their tokens at Ggool Market, an on-campus store for approximately 5,000 students. They are even accepted by around 20 affiliated stores in the city of Ulsan, in the south-east of the country, including cafes, bars, restaurants and clinics. Cho estimates that around 1,000 people, mostly students and project participants, are currently using the Ggool.