Caltech Reinvents The Toilet With Solar Power (Video)
by Energy Matters
40% of humanity doesn't have a safe way to poop.†Solar power could help address that.
Caltech's solar-powered toilet has won the Reinventing The Toilet Challenge, an
initiative of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.†
Caltech engineer Professor Michael Hoffmann and his team scooped up $100,000 for their
design. Last year, Professor Hoffman's team and others were awarded grants from
the Foundation to create a toilet that can safely dispose of human waste for just
a few cents per user each day. Additionally, the device couldn't use a septic
system or external water source.
As we reported
in July 2011, the Caltech team's toilet design uses a solar
panel to provide the energy for an electrochemical reactor, which breaks
down water and waste into fertilizer and hydrogen, with the latter being able to
be stored in fuel cells as energy. The treated water can then be reused to flush the toilet or for
irrigation purposes. †
Coming second-place in the competition was the UK's Loughborough University
team, whose toilet produces biochar, minerals, and clean water. The University of Toronto's
design, which sanitizes faeces and urine and recovers resources and clean water, was awarded third place for their
According to a Caltech
article, the World Health Organization states 2.5 billion people do not have access to sanitary
toilet facilities, which results in the spread of deadly diseases. 1.5 million
people die from diarrhoea annually.†
The Reinventing The Toilet Challenge awards ceremony was the culmination of†the
Reinvent The Toilet Fair.
"Inventing new toilets is one of the most important things we can do to
reduce child deaths and disease and improve people's lives. It is also something
that can help wealthier countries conserve fresh water for other important
purposes besides flushing," wrote Bill Gates in a related
"We don't have all the answers yet, but Iím optimistic that we can and
will solve this problem. Iím hopeful that this unusual summer fair will be a
positive step toward that important goal."