In early January, we talked about Bill Gates’ initiative to make poop potable. As part of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s mission to improve sanitation in underdeveloped countries, the business magnate and philanthropist took a sip of water that had been human waste just moments before.
The waste was being filtered through a treatment plant called the OmniProcessor. The plant was designed a part of the Gates Foundation’s Reinvent the Toilet Challenge. Along with being able to make wastewater drinkable, the plant also produce usable electricity.
A Test Run in Africa
Now, the OminProcessor is going from its testing stages to real world application. The plant has taken its first trip to Dakar, Senegal, and while the technology is working, the real world is proving to pose some other challenges.
“The real world introduces lots of variables,” Gates writes in a blog post. “For example, you have to find the right personnel to run the machine. You have to work with local and national governments and gauge the public’s reaction.”
The team is already looking to improve the next generation of the OmniProcessor based on the variables they’ve already encountered. For example, Gates would like the next version to burn garbage in addition to human waste.
Global Issues in Sanitation
Critical technology gaps in water, sanitation, and hygiene are being faced around the world. More than 738 million people world-wide rely on unimproved drinking water sources.
In Dakar alone, sanitation quality is deteriorating with 1.2 million people using pits to dump fecal waste. These pit latrines make the community more susceptible to a host of different diseases and pathogens.
With the OmniProcessor, the people of Dakar are working toward turning one man’s trash into another’s treasure.
Science for Solving Society’s Problems Challenge
In 2014, ECS awarded over $200,000 of seed funding to encourage research in the areas of hygiene and sanitation. In its first Science for Solving Society’s Problems Challenge, ECS partnered with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to leverage the brainpower of the many scientists in electrochemistry and solid state science and technology that regularly attend ECS meetings.[Images: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation/YouTube]