Everybody Poops

WorldToiletDayHere at The Electrochemical Society, we give a crap about sanitation. With our recent partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – which awarded $210,000 in seed funding to innovative research projects addressing critical gaps in water and sanitation – we’ve spent a great deal of time these past few months talking about poop.  We plan to keep that trend alive, which brings us to World Toilet Day.

Two and a half billion people – 36 percent of the world’s population – don’t have access to a toilet, according to UNICEF. Globally, more people have mobile phones than toilets. Most people in developed countries think of access to adequate sanitation as a right rather than a privilege.

For this reason, ECS hosted the Electrochemical Energy and Water Summit, where some of the brightest minds in electrochemical and solid state science came together to brainstorm innovative ways to address the global sanitation crisis. We’re not just flushing and forgetting, we’re attempting to make adequate sanitation a basic human right.

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Brainstorming

Over 100 researchers were guided through a brainstorming and working group session with the theme of improving access to clean water and sanitation in developing countries.

ECS is awarding $210,000 of seed funding to four innovative research projects addressing critical technology gaps in water, sanitation, and hygiene challenges being faced around the world.

Winners of the first Science for Solving Society’s Problems Challenge:

Artificial Biofilms for Sanitary/Hygienic Interface Technologies (A-Bio SHIT)
Plamen Atanassov, University of New Mexico, $70,000
Interfaces: Produce bio-catalytic septic cleaning materials that incorporate microorganisms removing organic and inorganic contaminants, while simultaneously creating electricity (or hydrocarbon fuel) for energy generation in support of a sustainable and portable system.

In-situ Electrochemical Generation of the Fenton Reagent for Wastewater Treatment
Luis Godinez, Centro de Investigacion y Desarrollo Tecnologico en Electroquimica SC, Mexico, $50,000
Disinfection: Study the electro-Fenton approach using activated carbon to efficiently oxidize most of the organic and biological materials present in sanitary wastewater so that recycling of the wastewater might be possible.

powerPAD
Neus Sabate, Institut de Microelectrónica de Barcelona (CSIC); Juan Pablo Esquivel, University of Washington; Erik Kjeang, Simon Fraser University, $50,000
Monitoring and Measurement: Develop a non-toxic portable source of power for water measuring and monitoring systems, which will not require recycling facilities. Using inexpensive materials such as paper, nanoporous carbon electrodes and organic redox species, the team will strive to create a biodegradable and even compostable power source.

More than MERe microbes: Microbial Electrochemical Reactors for water reuse in Africa
Gemma Reguera, Michigan State University, $40,000
Chemical Conversion: Develop microbial electrochemical reactors that harvest energy from human waste substrates using bioanodes engineered to process the waste into biofuels while simultaneously cleaning water for reuse. The microbial catalysts will be selected for their efficiency at processing the wastes, but also for their versatility to process other residential and agricultural waste substrates. This will provide an affordable, easy to operate system for the decentralized processing of a wide range of wastes for improved sanitation, water reuse, and energy independence.

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2014 ECS/SMEQ Meeting in the Books

Edison Theatre

“Pee to Energy” demo at the Edison Theatre in the exhibit hall in Cancun, Mexico. Rob Gerth, Gerri Botte, and Madhi Muthuvel getting ready to go.

I’m working on an official review of what happened at the meeting. In the meantime, I’ve been looking at some of the photos which got me thinking about the adventure that is an ECS meeting.

A couple of quick hits first:

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Gates Partnership funding review panel

Pictured is the funding review panel for the 2014 Electrochemical Energy and Water Summit grant proposals: Gerardo Arriaga, Centro de Investigación y Desarrollo Tecnologico en Electroquimica; Kathy Ayers, Proton OnSite; Ioannis Ieropoulos, University of the West of England – Bristol; Paul Kohl, Georgia Tech, President of ECS; Barry MacDougall, National Research Council of Canada, Past President of ECS; Paul Natishan, Naval Research Laboratory, Past President of ECS; Brian Stoner, RTI International; E. Jennings Taylor, Faraday Technology Inc. and Treasurer of ECS. Non-voting observers pictured: Dan Fatton, ECS Director of Development, Roque Calvo, ECS Executive Director, Carl Hensman, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The winners of the 2014 Electrochemical Energy and Water Summit funding challenge have been selected and notified. Once we get the signed agreements from each of their institutions, we will formally announce the results.

It was an incredible experience all around. Thank you to everyone who participated.

By the numbers:

  • 2,200+ attendees
  • 120 participants in the facilitated brainstorm
  • 47 proposals received
  • 30 applicants invited to present
  • 4 projects selected
  • $210,000 in funding and the projects will be announced soon!

See what else happened at the meeting.

Harvard students test the flow rate from one of the newly installed tap stands.Credit: Christopher Lombardo

Harvard students test the flow rate from one of the newly installed tap stands.
Credit: Christopher Lombardo

A group of students from Harvard have been working to help restore clean water to the rural town of Pinalito in the Dominican Republic. Now, for the first time in a long time, the water in Pinalito is clean again.

This from Harvard Gazette:

For the past 2½ years, students in the Harvard University chapter of Engineers Without Borders have been rehabilitating and improving a potable water system in the rural town in the Dominican Republic. After the most recent visit, the students returned to campus in late August having successfully worked with the community to upgrade the water quality and distribution system.

Read the full article here.

The residents now have clean water – something that wasn’t available prior due to the failed well built by a government contractor. The well installed by the Harvard students can produce 27 gallons a minute, according to Christopher Lombardo – assistant director for undergraduate studies in engineering sciences at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS).

During their time in Pinalito, the students made sure to integrate the community into the design and building of the well in order to combat skepticism and foster relationships.

Not only does this experience provide the rural town with clean water, but it also shows the students that there are many other perspective they’ll need to consider when they go further in the field of engineering, and they won’t always have access to a state-of-the-art lab.

At ECS, we’re also joining the fight to provide clean water though innovation and research to those in need. We are in Cancun right now working with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to find and fund new research to combat some of the world’s most serious water and sanitation issues.

Stay connected with us to see the grant winners and their solutions to bridge the critical technology gaps in water, sanitation, and hygiene challenges being faced around the world.

Adequate Sanitation Is a Basic Human Right

The lack of adequate sanitation facilities accounts for 4,100 preventable deaths every day.Credit: Kofi Opoku, West Virginia University

The lack of adequate sanitation facilities accounts for 4,100 preventable deaths every day.
Credit: Kofi Opoku, West Virginia University

With our Energy and Water Summit right around the corner, we’ve only got one thing on our mind: poop.

Forty percent of the world’s population – 2.5 billion people – practice open defecation or lack adequate sanitation facilities, and the consequences can be devastating for human health as well as the environment.

The Electrochemical Society and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation know there is no easy solution to this problem, but we are dedicated to finding and funding innovative research to reinvent the sanitation infrastructure.

In Francis de los Reyes’ TEDTalk entitled, “Sanitation is a basic human right,” the environmental engineer and sanitation activist makes his case for the total reinvention of the sanitation landscape as we know it.

“For the past 14-years, I’ve been teaching crap,” Reyes says.

And that he has. Reyes has dedicated his time to studying and researching human waste. The problem is especially relevant in India, where open deification is putting citizens at major health risks.


This from Reuters:

Less than a third of India’s 1.2 billion people have access to sanitation and more than 186,000 children under five die every year from diarrheal diseases caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation, according to the charity WaterAid.

The United Nations said in May half of India’s people defecate outside – putting people at risk of cholera, diarrhea, dysentery, hepatitis A and typhoid.

Read the full article here.

With India accounting for 818 million of the 2.5 billion people who lack adequate sanitation, most of the country’s rivers and lakes are polluted with sewage and industrial effluents.

So why can’t we just build western style flush-toilets in countries such as India?

“It’s just not possible,” Reyes says.

In these developing worlds, there is often time not enough water or energy to take on such a feat. Also, laying out sewer lines would cost governments tens of trillions of dollars.

Through our partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we hope to help solve these issues.

Climate Case for Open Access

This weekend I watched the recently released short film, Disruption, which is available online for free viewing. In less than one-hour, the scientists, authors and activists featured in the film highlight some truly frightening data and trends. As those who believe in the vast majority of the science already understand, we must do more to limit greenhouse gas emissions if we want any chance of keeping global temperature change below 2°C relative to pre-industrial levels.

Thankfully, the conversion to a clean energy economy is already feasible, both economically and technologically. Countries like Germany have been demonstrating the possibilities of renewable energy, despite having sunshine similar to that of Alaska. We also know the scientists of ECS are currently working on even more exciting research to improve our understanding and technological capabilities in photovoltaics, nanotechnology and fuel cells, among other cutting-edge fields.

In my view, the bold pledge to move toward open access at ECS has serious implications for action on climate change. If we can make the scientific research results and latest findings more widely accessible, we may speed up the scientific discovery process. Perhaps a young scientist in the developing world will unlock the key to some perplexing scientific dilemma, once we’ve made the latest findings more freely available in an ECS journal. Many of us believe we can accelerate the pace of innovation, and help solve critical challenges by opening access to scientific research. You can support those efforts by donating to the ECS Publications Endowment.

PeoplesClimate.orgIn the meantime, I plan to attend the Peoples Climate March on Sunday, September 21. There is an entire staging area for scientists, among the various  1,500 other groups, including students, environmentalists, labor unions, and community activists. Together, we’ll be demanding action on climate change, just two days before President Obama and other world leaders are set to attend a Climate Summit at the United Nations hosted by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Introducing Mr. Toilet

Meet Mr. Toilet

“What you don’t talk about, you cannot improve.”
-Jack Sim

Everybody poops – but not everybody has a place to do so. Sanitation is a growing – and often times deadly – crisis in the developing world, and the silence on this issue must be broken.

Let sanitation superhero Jack Sim tell you why you should care about this issue. He is, after all, the one and only Mr. Toilet.

This from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation:

The need for better sanitation in the developing world is clear. Forty percent of the world’s population—2.5 billion people—practice open defecation or lack adequate sanitation facilities, and the consequences can be devastating for human health as well as the environment. Even in urban areas, where household and communal toilets are more prevalent, 2.1 billion people use toilets connected to septic tanks that are not safely emptied or use other systems that discharge raw sewage into open drains or surface waters.

ECS is partnering with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to enable universal access to sustainable sanitation services with innovative solutions to funding research.

Join us in Cancun for the 2014 Electrochemical Energy and Water Summit, where more than $200,000 will be available as seed funding for projects that address critical technical gaps in global sanitation.

Find out how you could be a part of this brainstorming workshop and help solve some of the most challenging issues in the world today.

Matt Damon

Damon opts to use toilet water in lieu of fresh H2O for his ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

Like many other celebrities, Matt Damon has decided to do his part and participate in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Though, the award-winning actor and humanitarian was a bit conflicted about wasting a bucket of clean water.

His solution? Use toilet water, of course.

“It posed kind of a problem for me, not only because there’s a drought here in California,” Damon explained in his video, “but because I co-founded Water.org, and we envision the day when everybody has access to clean drinking water – and there are about 800 million people in the world who don’t – and so dumping a clean bucket of water on my head seemed a little crazy.”

According to Water.org, there are about 2.4 billion people globally who still lack access to clean sanitation systems. Through his ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, Damon saw a way to not only contribute to a good cause – but also educate about the very important global issue of sanitation.

“For those of you like my wife who think this is really disgusting, keep in mind that the water in our toilets in the West is actually cleaner than the water that most people in the developing world have access too.”

ECS is also focusing on the global issue of sanitation by partnering with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation at the 4th International Electrochemical Energy Summit. By distributing over $200,000 in funding, ECS hopes to empower researchers and bolster innovate research. Join us in Cancun, October 5-9, to take part in this multi-day workshop.

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