Bill Gates with a researcher from the University of Toronto at the Reinvent the Toilet Fair in Seattle on August 14, 2012.

Researchers from the California Institute of Technology assemble a prototype for the Reinvent the Toilet Fair in Seattle on August 12, 2012. Their toilet system is solar powered and generates hydrogen and electricity.

Researchers from the Fundacion In Terris in Ecuador assemble a prototype for the Reinvent the Toilet Fair in Seattle on August 12, 2012. The composting toilet system removes urine and feces after each use. The toilet is designed as a pedal-operated, low cost, easy-to-use, odorless, urine-diverting system. Dry material will be mixed in mechanically, and the end product becomes plant fertilizer.

A prototype of a toilet designed by researchers from the Loughborough University in the United Kingdom for the Reinvent the Toilet Fair in Seattle on August 12, 2012. The toilet system produces biological charcoal, minerals, and clean water.

Researchers from Shijiazhuang University of Economics assemble a prototype for the Reinvent the Toilet Fair in Seattle on August 12, 2012. Their toilet system extracts and disposes fecal sludge on-site.

Researchers from the Stanford University and the Climate Foundation assemble a prototype for the Reinvent the Toilet Fair in Seattle on August 12, 2012. Their self-contained system pyrolyzes (decomposes at high temperatures without oxygen) human waste into biological charcoal (biochar).

Researchers from the National University of Singapore assemble a prototype for the Reinvent the Toilet Fair in Seattle on August 12, 2012. Their toilet uses biological charcoal (biochar) to dry and combust feces. The heat generated will be used to extract water from urine by boiling it under pressure.

Researchers from Eawag: Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology and EOOS assemble a prototype for the Reinvent the Toilet Fair in Seattle on August 12, 2012. The toilet diverts urine and recovers water for flushing. The urine and feces will be safely transported to a decentralized processing center. The water used for cleaning will be recycled by a gravity-driven biological membrane.

2012-08-20

Co.Exist

This Is What A Toilet Looks Like When Bill Gates Is Involved

Searching for a solution the world’s sanitation problems, the Gates Foundation recently convened a fair of all the different toilet innovations it has funded. And then it tested them with 50 gallons of fake poop.

Sanitation: it’s not the sexiest issue, but it’s a big problem in much of the world. A staggering 2.5 billion people don’t have access to proper sanitation, and open defecation leads to the deaths of 1.5 million children under age five every year. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is a major funder of sanitation-related initiatives. Last week, the Gates Foundation showed off its 2011 grantees that are working to reinvent the toilet, in what can safely be called the world’s most interesting toilet fair (the foundation hauled in 50 gallons of fake poop made out of rice and soybeans for demonstrations at the event).

As part of its Reinvent the Toilet Challenge, the Gates Foundation doled out $400,000 grants to eight universities to create safe, affordable, and hygienic waterless toilets. The toilet fair held in Seattle this past week showcased those toilets and offered three new Reinvent the Toilet Challenge awards for the most promising innovations--and they are, as far as toilets go, incredible.

First prize ($100,000) went to Caltech’s solar-powered bathroom, which consists of a toilet and a solar panel that powers an electrochemical reactor. A reactor in the bathroom turns water and human waste into hydrogen and fertilizer. The hydrogen can be stored in fuel cells for energy, and the water can either be reused in the toilet or for irrigation. All of the toilet’s inner workings can be buried underground.

The $60,000 second place prize went to the Loughborough University’s "toilet that produces biological charcoal, minerals, and clean water." The toilet uses a process called continuous thermal hydrocarbonization--decomposition in water without oxygen at high temperatures--to turn feces into biochar. The system, designed to be completely off the grid, is powered by heat created from the biochar’s combustion.

The $40,000 third place prize went to the University of Toronto’s project: "A toilet that sanitizes feces and urine to recover resources and energy." The toilet features a hand crank that processes waste through a sand filter and an ultraviolet light disinfecting chamber. A smolder chamber incinerates the waste so it doesn’t pose harm to the surrounding community.

Other exhibitors at the toilet fair--challenge entrants as well as foundation grantees and partners outside of the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge--included Hattery Labs’ Poop Games (mobile games that promote sanitation), a toilet that uses microbes to turn poop into power, a small-scale device to sterilize fecal sludge, a wind-powered sanitation system, and a solar steam sterilizer for human waste.

Check out the fair in the slide show above.

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74 Comments

  • sayitaintsobo

     Homo Sapiens is habitually one of the FILTHIEST creatures populating the Earth; a quick look at any public (and many private) toilet rooms confirms this statement and the less civilized the environment, the raunchier the toilet facility. The problem is NOT with disposal & composting of waste but somehow automating the hygiene of the toilet and surrounding area.

  • sayitaintsobo

    This contest should be  relocated to the Capitol Hill section of Washington D.C. where there is an UNLIMITED supply of test material. . .

  • Dan Withers

    What will my dog drink out of?  

    And how does one "hug" this thing when spending an all-nighter over it after partying hard and retching one's guts out?

  • Ruud van Winden

    In picture 1, Bill Gates is standing next to Prince Willem-Alexander of The Netherlands (with orange tie), not "a researcher". Maybe change caption?

  • Bill

    This design is based upon the Islamic "squat" toilet.  You know... the people that use their hand to wipe and then hose themselves off.  Proper sanitation?  Do you want to grab the handle of that crank?  I don't.  Gates and this Toronto ''engineer" are trying to get Islam to modernize their inherently nasty toilets.  Good luck with that. 

  • CDP

    If Bill designs it, "microsoft," will you have to boot the toilet to use it?....install patches to make it flush?  CTRL+ALT+DEL to eliminate a clog?  ...have to change out toilets every 2 years for the next version.....HA HA!

  • Pingston

    The article tells little more than a press release would. Where's the examination of practicality, their costs, size, weight, utility, and potential for not breaking down (themselves) within 6 months?

  • Aebe Mac Gill

      Folks in China and India are building biogas generators by the millions.
      Solves three problems - Human and animal waste are cleanly disposed of,fuel for cooking and lighting are produced ( Need for fuel and the problems that causes in the third world are terrible ).And,the end product of the digestor is a microbe free fertiliser,high in nitrogen.

                          Validate your 2nd Amendment Rights.Carry.

  • AwwShucks

    If I were able to get past the speakers vibrant beautiful blue eyes, I might learn something. 

  • widower9

    Olga, don't let Fiore1231 bully you.  It's amazing how much trouble some people have identifying socialism.  And they might even be "educated".  Is it just a ploy?

  • olga

     It will soon be required in every hut in the USA, you know, the once great superpower before it turned to socialism.