According to Bill Gates nearly 2.6 billion people, 40 percent of the world`s population, do not have access to clean sanitation. This results in the deaths of approximately 1.5 million children under five every year. The problem is that the modern toilet, whose design and technology has not changed much since its conception in 1775, requires a lot of water and energy, both of which are in short supply in much of the developing world.
In order to tackle this problem the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has invested about $6.5 million into projects developed by various universities and organisations that are trying to ‘reinvent the toilet’. In total the foundation spends about $80 million a year on water, sanitation, and hygiene issues.
$100,000 has just been handed to the California Institute of Technology for its research into a self-contained, solar-powered lavatory system which recycles water and breaks down the waste into storable energy.
Caltech’s design uses energy from the sun to break down the waste into hydrogen gas, which is then stored in hydrogen fuel cells so that the unit can continue to operate during the night, or during times of low sunlight. The water used for flushing is cleaned and recycled to be used again for subsequent flushes.
By. James Burgess of Oilprice.com