Re-invent the toilet winner!

A toilet that uses power from the sun to break down water and human waste into fertilizer and hydrogen has won the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge put on by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation.

The $40 million program aims to tackle the problems of water, sanitation, and hygiene throughout the developing world.

The winning design by a team at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) includes a solar-powered electrochemical reactor that converts waste into fertilizer and hydrogen, which can be stored in hydrogen fuel cells as energy. The treated water can then be reused to flush the toilet or for irrigation.

Caltech engineer Michael Hoffmann and his colleagues were awarded $100,000 for their design, which they demonstrated at the Reinvent the Toilet Fair, a two-day event held August 14–15 in Seattle.

Last summer, Hoffmann, a professor of environmental science, and his team were awarded a $400,000 grant to create a toilet that can safely dispose of human waste for just five cents per user per day.

The team built a prototype inside the solar dome on the roof of Caltech’s Linde + Robinson Laboratory, and after a year of designing and testing, they—along with the other grantees—showed off their creation. The Gates Foundation brought in 50 gallons of fake feces made from soybeans and rice for the demonstrations.

The $60,000 second-place prize went to Loughborough University in the United Kingdom, their design produces biological charcoal, minerals, and clean water.

This could be the first step towards tackling the world’s toilet crisis and help those in developing countries. Below is a video which shows the toilet.

How to test a new toilet?

Last year the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation gave $3 million in grants to eight engineers to build a new type of toilet that functions without electricity or plumbing. More than 2.6 billion people across the globe lack access to clean toilets; this problem is so severe that it kills 1.5 million children each year due to poor sanitation. The Gates foundation is hopefully funding one solution to this problem, hunting for a new self-powered toilet.

Prototypes have been developed and will be inspected and evaluated shortly to determine if they are liable for mass production. How are they going to test them you ask?

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has ordered up  50 pounds of the “fake poo”, made of soybean paste, that will be used to test out high-tech toilets. Yes that’s right, “fake poo”.

The prototypes will be inspected and evaluated using the fake poop, and finalists will get more funding from the foundation. One of the contending commodes is solar-powered. Another converts waste into electricity using microwave technology, and one dries and burns faeces, transforming it into fertilizer. “It’s like a toilet that you’d find in the spaceship,” said a chemical engineer. “The faecal matter itself powers the toilet.”

Hopefully these new toilets will provide a solution to the on-going demand for sanitation to be provided where it is needed the most.

At Tardis our toilets may not be high-tech but if you need portable toilet hire for your event on construction site we will be able to provide you with the right sanitation solution!