Bill Gates has made part of his new mission to reinvent the toilet, and is determined to revolutionize the way the world poops. More specifically, he wants to provide the 2.6 billion people around the world who don’t have sanitary toilets a safer, cleaner way to take care of business. This is why the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is sponsoring the Reinvent the Toilet Fair, which showcases new, innovative ways to get rid of human waste.
The foundation gave first prize of $100,000 to Caltech, a company that unveiled a prototype for a solar-powered, energy-producing toilet. The toilet runs on renewable power and turns human waste into energy. Solar panels produce the power for an electrochemical reactor that breaks down waste into hydrogen gas. This is stored in hydrogen fuel cells to provide back-up energy for night use, and times where there is low sunlight.
The toilet is designed to be buried underground beneath a standard stall and urinal set-up. Water is recovered from each flush and is pumped up again, ready to reflush when the next visitor arrives.
Gates is hoping many universities will work together to develop new technologies and get new toilets in use within the next two to four years. The foundation is spending about $80 million a year on water, sanitation, and hygiene in areas where it’s a huge priority, and so far, has invested $370 million in these areas. Since 1994, Gates has given out more than $26 billion in grants.
Solar powered toilets are already in use over in Dubai, so there’s no reason to not have them in industrialized countries, and it sounds like it won’t be long before this kind of technology reaches parts of the developing world. It should have an invaluable impact on the lives of its citizens.
Image CC licensed by Kjetil Ree: Bill and Melinda Gates