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University of Toronto receives toilet grant

November 29, 2012

TORONTO — A University of Toronto engineering team has received a major grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to continue work on designing for a waterless, hygienic toilet that is safe and affordable for people in the developing world, according to a press release.

gates foundationThe Gates Foundation awarded the grant, worth $2.2 million for 15 months, to U of T Engineering Professor Yu-Ling Cheng, director of the Centre for Global Engineering in the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering, and her team, the release stated.

According to the release, the U of T Engineering solution uses a sand filter and ultraviolet (UV) light disinfection to process liquid waste and a smolder chamber, similar to a charcoal barbeque, to incinerate solid waste that has been flattened and dried in a roller/belt assembly; going forward, the team will work to further simplify the process, reduce mechanical complexity and minimize odor.

"I am very proud of our entire team and the work we have done up to now. We have proven that our concept works technically, now we are going to get busy to make sure it will work for the users — some of the 2.6 billion people in the world who do not have access to basic sanitation," Cheng said.

“Western toilets, which rely on running water, an extensive sewer network and an expensive processing system, are not suitable for the needs of people in the developing world — many of whom live in places without the infrastructure we take for granted,” Cheng added.

Working with local partners in Bangladesh, Cheng and her team hope to have an operational prototype by December 2013, one that uses readily available materials and equipment that can be maintained locally, the release noted.

Click here to read the release in its entirety.