Engineering a better toilet could save millions of lives

Most Americans do not give much thought to the throne of porcelain. Do your business, rinse and get out of the pot. But for billions of people around the world, toilets are a major source of anxiety, illness and economic hardship.

"In developing regions, [sanitation] there is no infrastructure so that the toilets are not safely discharged and human waste will come into contact with people, "said Duke University professor of engineering, Jeffrey Glass PopSci via email. The Americans are generally based on a functionally invisible drainage system and a wastewater treatment plant run by a municipal health department to safely handle them. Elsewhere, destruction goes a little freer. "So pathogens are making their way to drinking water and water used for everyday homework such as cleaning."

These leaking industrial intestines have serious consequences for human health. Pathogens from faecal matter include cholera-causing bacteria. rotavirus, which causes stomach flu. Shigella, the little intruder responsible for dysentery. and even parasitic worms wishing to colonize a new man. Every year, 500,000 or more children under the age of 5 die of such diseases. Adults are also not safe either: US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 9% of the total weight of the disease comes from poor drainage and contaminated drinking water.

But Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft and his major charity, announced that an international network of technology, sanitation experts and researchers funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation eventually broke the international crisis. The private organization, which prides itself on its public health initiatives, decided to upset the bathroom in 2011. The Foundation's staff came to remote engineers, encouraging them – with money and the possibility of speculative altruism – autonomous killer engine.

At a Reinvented Toilet Expo event in Beijing this week, Gates took the stage with a useful visual aid: a mastic jar full of nails. "This report highlights, for the first time, radically new decentralized sewer technologies and products ready for business," he said. "It is no longer a matter of discovering the toilet and other drainage systems, and how quickly this new class of solutions will be spread out of the net." According to a press release, the institution is investing in 20 toilevel technologies that it now stands ready for wide use.

Sedron Technologies, a small engineering firm in Sedro-Woolley, Washington, about an hour and 15 minutes from Seattle's headquarters in downtown Seattle, responded to the call. The company has been spinning for two decades in aerospace engineering with companies such as Boeing and Lockheed in the sewer. "It was a lot of change," says Sara VanTassel, president of Sedron Technologies. Just six years later, Sedron's game yields: Omni Processor is the central part of the Gates celebration in Beijing.

The machine, which is approximately the size of the four seagoing containers placed side by side, combines three existing technologies into a closed loop system. It starts with the combustion of solid fuels, where solid waste is separated from the liquid waste, mechanically dried and put into the fire. The resultant heat boils water, generating steam energy to keep the system running. The third and final process, the water treatment, is performed in parallel with combustion and steam generation. The liquid wastes that are bred from the dryer earlier in the process are filtered and concentrated, producing drinking water.

The autonomous system does not use external energy but produces plenty. Excessive electricity can be fed into the community. "It really combines many formal processes with which we are very familiar, we have done so much more efficiently," says VanTassel. He estimates that the first machines will be able to filter water for a community of about 2,000 to 5,000 people.

Since the dawn of human civilization, we have struggled to limit our collective waste. For millennia, the majority of people have stumbled over holes or pots. Sometimes, solid "nocturnal" soil was used in agriculture. Often, they were channeled into nearby rivers and oceans where they could easily cause illnesses. The miraculous toilet sprang to Tudor England just a few hundred years ago. It has retained its shape, structure and dependence on the sewerage network since 1780. When combined with well preserved septic tanks or more commonly with sewer pipes, the elderly problems of exhaustion disappeared for residents of wealthy countries who now buy toilets, such as heated seats and bidets with different water speeds and temperatures.

The creation of a completely new system required some creative thinking and the proposals to the Gates Foundation were different. Pathogens can be killed in three ways: chemical, biological elements such as bacteria that consume exudate or heat. The engineers followed all three paths. Add to the layout that each system is completely autonomous and the toilet seats suddenly look much more like a Rubik porcelain cube. "For example, a technology can be very effective in disinfecting, but it is cost-effective only in large batches, so it should be used in the neighborhood and beyond the level instead of the single household," says Glass. power can not be used when there is no electricity network. "

Over the last seven years, the foundation has put $ 200 million in toilet renewal, and Gates announced in Beijing that it will dedicate $ 200 million more. But there are challenges ahead. The New York Times says, for example, that many of the models shown in the report are $ 10,000. This price has to drop – for example, $ 500 – if these plumbers have to be commercially viable. And there is also a question as to whether these communities have been built to actually want to install an Omni Processor or Sedron's upcoming Firelight.

"I think there will still be a huge commercialization curve," he says. There is an inherent risk of trying something new, so Sedron relies on the need for early adoption for innovation. "Sanitation was a real state responsibility in some respects and it was done in a very central way," he says. This is why Gates has not only funded technological development but also is genuinely trying to transform the drainage process into these decentralized solutions. "