Science for the benefit of people. All people. Worldwide.
2.5 Billion people globally lack access to safe and affordable sanitation. Therefore in 2011 the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation set up a challenge to ‘Reinvent the Toilet’: a new sanitation system that would be clean, cheap to use and ultimately self-sustainable.
Delft University of Technology’s response to this challenge is a combination of advanced technology and user-centred design. Project coordinator is Aravind, Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Mechanical, Maritime and Materials Engineering: “We are developing a community-based sanitation system that processes water on-site and upgrades human waste to energy at a gasification plant. It’s a collaboration between the faculties of Process and Energy, and Industrial Design Engineering.”
The community sanitation centre would house toilets for the whole neighbourhood, a shop for personal hygiene products, a place where women can do laundry and a system for treating ‘grey’ washing water. The design of the building is asymmetrical, allowing men to make make a quick visit and women to stay longer in a safe and relaxed environment.
Meanwhile human waste will be used to produce electricity: “One of the best ways to treat the waste is using extremely high temperature microwave-assisted plasma gasification, a technique that we’re refining here in Delft.” Human waste is dried, converted into gas and then fed into a fuel cell. “Gasification destroys germs immediately and generates enough energy to power the system, creating a sustainable cycle. Once we get the gasification process operating continuously, the sanitation centre will become self-sustaining.”
Co-workers: Wiebren de Jong, Guido Sturm, Liyuan Fan, Alessandro Cavalli, Eva Promes, Ming Liu, Xiangmei Meng, Sandra Giraldo and Jan Carel Diehl
Sanitation, energy, woman empowerment
Plasma-gasifier, high-temperature gas-cleaning, fuel cells, human-centered design
Bill-Melinda Foundation (U.S.A.), KwaZulu Natal University (South Africa) and several other organizations