Category Archives: Technology

Caltech’s prize-winning solar-powered toilet – video

A video demonstrates the working of the prototype of the solar-powered toilet that won the first prize of US$ 100,000 in the Reinventing the Toilet Challenge issued by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The Solar-Powered Self-contained Human Waste Water Treatment System was developed by Prof. Michael Hoffmann‘s research group at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).

In 2011 the Caltech team was awarded a US$ 400,000 grant to create a toilet that can safely dispose of human waste and reuse water for just five US dollar cents per user per day.

Solar energy powers an electrochemical reactor, which converts human waste into fertiliser and hydrogen, which is stored in hydrogen fuel cells as energy. The treated water can be reused to flush the toilet or for irrigation.

The toilet, which could cost US$ 1,000 or more per unit according to the Seattle Times, is still a prototype and would need to be adapted before it can be launched commercially.

Source: Marcus Woo, Caltech, 15 Aug 2012 ; Theodoric Meyer, Seattle Times, 14 Aug 2012

Winners of the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge

August 14, 2012 | By Bill Gates

Today I attended the Reinvent the Toilet Fair— a fascinating learning experience and an important step in providing safe sanitation for everyone in the world.

A solar-powered toilet that generates hydrogen and electricity – California Institute of Technology

A year ago, the foundation launched an initiative to tackle the problem of sanitation in the developing world. We called it the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge. In this photo gallery you can learn more about each of the grantees and their sanitation solutions.

This week in Seattle, the foundation is holding a Reinvent the Toilet Fair. Today I awarded prizes to three universities who responded to our challenge a year ago to come up with solutions for capturing and processing human waste and transforming it into useful resources.

The winners included:

  • first place to California Institute of Technology in the United States for designing a solar-powered toilet that generates hydrogen and electricity,
  • second place to Loughborough University in the United Kingdom for a toilet that produces biological charcoal, minerals, and clean water, and
  • third place to University of Toronto in Canada for a toilet that sanitizes feces and urine and recovers resources and clean water.

A special recognition was awarded to Eawag (Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology) and EOOS for their outstanding design of a toilet user-interface.

Watch this AP video report on the Reinvent the Toilet Fair.

IRC research calls on BRAC WASH II Programme – extended to 31 Aug 2012

IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre is happy to announce two research calls in the field of sanitation:

  1. Low-cost sanitation technologies for areas with high groundwater tables
  2. Faecal sludge secondary treatment options

These calls are part of the BRAC WASH II programme in which EUR 1.5 million will be used for innovative research, tendered to consortia of leading European and Bangladeshi research organisations. The other action research calls will focus on low-cost water supply technologies; Geo-referenced database for monitoring; menstrual hygiene management; and saline intrusion.

1. Guidelines for research call on low-cost sanitation technologies for areas with high groundwater tables

2. Guidelines for secondary treatment options for faecal sludge

Extended deadline for submission of full proposal application forms: 31 August 2012

Please do not send requests for information or applications to the Sanitation Updates blog.

Time to Get Our Sh*t Together

South Africa toilet. Photo: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

“It’s time to get our sh*t together and focus on sanitation”, is the message that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is bringing to the World Water Forum  Marseilles.

The lack of progress on sanitation, which was reconfirmed by the 2012 JMP Update, is what originally fueled the foundation’s call to action to “reinvent the toilet.” To us, reinventing the toilet is not just about science and technology, it’s about a whole new approach to working with poor communities in urban and rural areas of the developing world to create affordable, sustainable, and aspirational sanitation solutions.

The Gates Foundation has turned the usual distribution of funding and advocacy for WASH programmes on its head by committing 90% of its WASH funding to sanitation, write staff members Frank Rijsberman and Sara Rogge.

The Foundation is focussing on the following components to achieve its long term vision of providing sustainable sanitation services for all:

  • Explore and Implement Sanitation without Sewers
  • End Open Defecation
  • Provide Sustainable Services at Scale
  • Promote Sanitation as a Business
  • Cooperate and Partner

In 2011, the Gates Foundation committed US$ 120 million in new commitments, grants and contracts, 90% of which was focused on sanitation, including:

  • US$ 79 million for Sanitation Science and Technology, including grants to 8 universities to develop prototypes of affordable toilets that don’t need to be connected to sewers
  • US$ 47 million for Delivery Models at Scale by implementing demand-led sanitation programmes, which aim to end open defecation for 30 million people by 2015
  • US$ 18 million for Policy & Advocacy grants that support sanitation policy development and advocacy campaigns

Read the full details of Gates Foundation message for the World Water Forum here

Use the following links to read more about the Gates Foundations’s WASH  strategy and awarded grants

Source: Frank Rijsberman and Sara Rogge, Impatient Optimists, 12 Mar 2012

Africa wide WASH technology review published

The WASHTech project has published a literature review focusing on 14 technologies used in Africa in the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector.

The following sanitation and hygiene technologies are included in the review:

  • Bio-additives to pit latrines
  • VIP latrines
  • Urine diversion dry toilets
  • Gulper
  • Tippy tap

For each technology there is a description of the range of literature available on it, a concise description of the technology itself, a description of its application, a selection of interesting case studies, and an explanation as to whether the technology meets technical, financial, social and institutional success criteria.

Continue reading

Effluent and Waste Water Management Conference, Nairobi, Kenya, 22-23 November 2011

This conference assesses recent developments and approaches to industrial wastewater management in the African region.There are speakers from UN agencies (Wold Bank, UNEP), universities, industry and government.

The conference is being organised by  Aidem Business Solution (ABS) and is sponsored by the Kenyan National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) and Cuss Environmental System Technology and Service GmbH.

Continue reading

Developing a Decentralized Performance Monitoring System

Large-scale projects that engage multiple government and non-government agencies entail specific considerations when designing and implementing a management information system (MIS) to support performance monitoring. Training and independent evaluation are key.

These and other insights are summarized in a new Learning Note from the Water and Sanitation Program (WSP), Developing a Decentralized Performance Monitoring System in Senegal, by Seydou Koita, based on an MIS system developed to support the Global Scaling Up Handwashing Project in Sengal.

Continue reading

Thailand: floating toilets for flood-hit areas

Photo Bangkok Post

As Thailand faces its worst flooding in more than 50 years, a local company is distributing floating toilets free of charge to government offices.

Cotto, part of Siam Cement Group (SCG), designed the floating twin-toilet unit, which weighs 800 kg. It has one modern toilet and one Thai-style pour-flush toilet.

Continue reading

Workshop on “Frontiers of urban sanitation solutions” at IWA Development Congress


With universal access to sanitation trailing far behind set targets, there is an urgent need to break new ground in the provision of sanitation solutions. A special three-part workshop at the forthcoming IWA Development Congress in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, will examine technical, management and financial solutions for urban sanitation. A second dedicated sanitation session will deal with “Faecal Sludge Management, Biosolids, Waste as a Resource”. Ms. Jaehyang So, Manager of the Water and Sanitation Program (WSP), will give a keynote presentation on titled “Meeting the Challenge of Urban Sanitation for Poor People: What will it take?”.

Continue reading

CLOO – new app uses social media to share toilets

This app turns any private toilet into a public toilet accessible to friends & friends of friends using social media connections, with the aim to solve the problem of too-few easily accessible toilets in cities. CLOO allows registered users to charge a small fee for the use of their toilet.

CLOO was developed by Hillary Young & Deanna McDonald.

For more info go to: www.cloo-app.com