Kartik Chandran, a Columbia University Professor, has received $1.5 million as a grant from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It is hoped that the funding will help him bring biofuel advantages to communities globally, beginning with the largest city in Ghana: Accra. The funding has been won through the Grand Challenge in Global Health group of Bill and Melinda Gates.
Chandran is a well known name in managing wastewater resources. He recently developed a project to reduce greenhouse gas emissions using wastewater treatment plants. He has also developed biofuel using bacteria, which is grown by using ammonia from wastewater and carbon dioxide from air.
The project particularly tackles the fecal waste disposal problems in communities where proper pipe-based sanitation is not feasible, or unaffordable. Almost 2.1 billion city residents still depend on non-pipe facilities like cesspools and septic tanks. It is difficult to keep contaminated water away from water used for consumption, irrigation and washing. This problem is a huge one and it kills about 1.6 million kids every year. With the ongoing rapid rise in global population, this problem is growing.
Chandran and his research partners are building a ‘Next Gen Urban Sanitation Facility’ in line with constraints given in the Grand Challenge. This facility will make use of a bioprocess to change fecal sludge into methane and biodiesel. So while it will reduce public health hazards and environmental impacts, it will also provide an affordable source of fuel to the community.
This facility is going to be developed with a social business model that can be implemented in underserved societies. It is hoped that it will promote local financial sustainability along with environmental well being.
The biofuel idea can apply to livestock operations too, and the methane biogas part is being promoted by the government for U.S. livestock farms, because it can reduce the environmental impacts and allow farmers to generate high value products.