Last week, Seattle played host to the Reinvent the Toilet Fair, sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which put on display the results of a big-money challenge to develop low-cost, high-quality toilets, according to the MinnPost.
All entrants to the fair had to be able to handle "both liquid and solid waste without connections to a water system, an electric grid or a sewer line, as well as operate below five cents a day."
The objective, as put forth by the Foundation, is not to replace the massively wasteful flush toilets of the industrialized world, but to extend the benefits of modern sanitation throughout a developing world whose facilities run the sorry gamut from an outhouse downhill to a ditch.
Over the past two years, the Gates Foundation has granted nearly $150 million to improve global sanitation, and there is more where that came from.
Through the challenge, $3 million to teams of eight universities, scattered throughout the world.
The three top winners, as described by Bloombergs Lisa Beyer, include:
• The California Institute of Technology won first prize for a device that includes a solar-powered electrochemical reactor that disinfects waste and generates hydrogen to be used as fuel.
• The model from the Loughborough University in the U.K. generates clean water from urine and feces and uses a hydrothermal carbonization reactor to turn solid waste into biological charcoal that can be used as fertilizer.
• The University of Toronto entry dries and smolders waste to sanitize it and uses a sand filter and ultra-violet light to recover clean water.
Going forward, the foundation will pursue field testing of these models to determine their real-world viability.