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Bill Gates awards $3m research grants to invent ‘waterless’ toilet

Bill and Melinda Gates

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as has awarded research grants totalling $3m to eight universities across Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America ‘on ‘concepts to access safe, healthy and affordable sanition’.

The grants aim to reinvent the toilet as a stand-alone unit without piped-in water, a sewer connection, or outside electricity—all for less than 5 cents a day . The body also awarded grants to 26 other organizations under the ‘Reinvent the Toilet Challenge’.

Announcing the grants, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, President of the Foundation’s Global Development Program, said the ‘reinvent the toilet challenge’ aims to leverage advances in science and technology and create a new toilet that will transform waste into energy, clean water and nutrients, as well as engage creative minds to work on scientific and technological breakthroughs for the world’s most pressing health and development challenges.

Other aims of the ‘Reinvent the Toilet Challenge’ are to address the failures of the 18th century toilet, which is not meeting the current needs of 2.6 billion people who lack access to sanitation; to generate innovation among a wider research and development community and devote funding and attention to the need for a new toilet.

The $3m grants  also aims at supporting upstream research and development of a toilet that is hygienic and sustainable for the world’s poorest populations, has an operational cost of $0.05 per user, per day, does not discharge pollutants, but instead generates energy and recovers salt, water and other nutrients, and is designed for use in a single family home. The ‘new toilet’ being sought by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation should also not rely on water to flush waste or a septic system to process and store waste; and should create a sanitation business that can be easily adopted by local entrepreneurs living in a poor urban settings.

Grantees include Prof. Michael Hoffman of the California Institute of Technology for a solar-powered toilet that generates hydrogen and electricity for local use; Prof. Georgious Stefanidis of Delft University of Technology, working on a project to turn the toilet into an electricity generator for local use; Prof. Andrew Yeh-Ching and Prof. How Yong of National University of Singapore, for a project on a Pneumatic flushing urine-diversion dehydrated toilet; Prof. Christopher Buckley of University of KwaZulu-Natal, for a community bathroom block that mineralizes human waste and recovers clean water, nutrients and energy; Prof Yu-Ling Chen of the  University of Toronto, for a toilet that uses mechanical dehydration and smouldering of faeces to recover resources and energy; Prof Andrew Cotton of Loughborough University, for a toilet that produces biological charcoal, minerals and water; Brian Von Herzen of the Climatic Foundation and Prof Reginald of Stanford University, for a community biochar production plant fed by human feaces; and Prof Tove Larsen of Swiss Federal Institute for Aquatic Science and Dr. Harald Grundle of EOOS, who is designing  a urine diverting toilet that recovers clean water on site.

To learn more: www.gatesfoundation.org/water-sanitation-hygiene

 

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