Fast Co: Take A Seat On This Gates-Funded Future Toilet That Will Change How We Think About Poop
KUDOS Bill & Melinda Gates! WOW! a toilet that is hygienic AND requires no sewer or water hookups!.. Do we need it? This quote says it all… More people in India have cell phones than toilets.
FC: The inside story of how Caltech engineers and Kohler designers are testing a toilet technology that could significantly improve the health of 2.5 billion people around the world. It might even appear in U.S. bathrooms, too.
In 2012, their toilet won the Gates Foundation’s Reinvent the Toilet Challenge, which asked entrants to create a safe, cheap, and hygienic toilet–one that could serve the 2.5 billion people around the world who lack access to safe sanitation. Now the toilet system is getting some help from the toilet maker Kohler and taking a trip to India for testing.
The Caltech toilet has been a long time in the making. In his previous job as co-founder Sonoma Research, team leader and Caltech engineer Michael Hoffman worked on a number of toilet-related projects, from U.S. Navy wastewater treatment plants to a NASAspace shuttle system for urine removal. The Gates-approved toilet is, in a sense, a continuation of this work.
In 2011, Hoffman and his team received a $400,000 grant to develop a toilet that can remove human waste for five cents per user per day. This is what they came up with: A toilet that uses a solar panel to power an electrochemical reactor, which breaks down waste into solids that can be used as fertilizer and hydrogen that can be stored in fuel
cells to power the reactor when it’s cloudy outside. A pump sends treated, recycled water back to a reservoir on the top of the toilet. The toilet is completely self-contained, no sewer connection required. It can run off the grid, and it can treat wastewater in just three to four hours.
The team has yet to reach its five-cent goal, however. According to Qu, a Caltech postdoctoral researcher, the toilet currently costs about 11 cents per user per day if it’s connected to the grid (or $1,500 over the 20-year life span of the toilet). With batteries, the system costs more.