Gates Foundation Reinvent The Toilet Results
Up north of here in Seattle earlier this week, Bill Gates awarded the winners of the Reinvent the Toilet Fair. (We discussed the contest and its purpose this Wednesday in a previous article and attached video.)
The fair's big winner represented the California Institute of Technology. Michael Hoffman and his crew took home a $100,000 prize for their design, which is a solar-powered toilet that produces electricity and hydrogen from the human waste it collects. The design is self-contained, and is described more in-depth in Gate's own blog. (You can also see pictures of all the designs.)
Second place went to the scientists from Loughborough University, in England, for their toilet, one that recovers clean water from poop and pee. It basically reduces the organic waste (poop) to a "biological charcoal," according to the Gates blog. I am not thinking Kingsford...
Third place was awarded to engineers from the University of Toronto, whose design also recovers clean water, and somehow manages to sanitize the leftover offal. Actually, if you take the time to go through the photo album on Gates' blog right now, you will find that there are quite a few toilets that recover water and manage to reduce poop to some type of sanitized, burnt whatever-you-call-it.
How soon can these new toilets be put into action, you might ask? The answer for one of the designs is now, which is kind of cool! Stanford University's design uses a process called pyrolysis, which is a chemical decomposition of materials at very high temperatures without oxygen. Pyrolysis requires pressure and a temperature of around 800 degrees Fahrenheit. The results of the Stanford toilet again are this biological charcoal, which is called "biochar" on the blog. When I looked further into biochar, I found that it is not used to barbecue, as I had earlier suspected; instead biochar has the ability to produce negative carbon dioxide emissions, which is kind of awesome. People use it to reinvigorate their soil, as well.
The Stanford pyrolysis/biochar toilet will be arriving in Nairobi as soon as possible, where it is expected to process over two tons of poop a day! How cool is that? Two tons of stinky, bacteria-laden human poop will end up as a substance that has the ability to give us better soil and lower carbon dioxide, which we all know as Greenhouse Gas.
Again, you can view photos of participants' entries, along with descriptive captions here.