View more articles about

developing countries

Toilet challenge: UV potty gets Gates funding

U. TORONTO (CAN) — The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is challenging researchers to reinvent the toilet—making it safe and affordable for people in the developing world.

A design by engineers at the University of Toronto uses a sand filter and UV-ray disinfecting chamber to process liquid waste and a smolder chamber, similar to a charcoal barbeque, to incinerate solid waste that has been flattened and dried in a roller/belt assembly.

The result is a toilet that is sustainable, easy to use, and that processes waste while protecting the community from contamination.


The Toronto toilet uses a sand filter and UV-ray disinfecting chamber to process liquid waste and a smolder chamber, similar to a charcoal barbeque, to incinerate solid waste that has been flattened and dried in a roller/belt assembly. (Credit: University of Toronto)

The design was a response to the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge, which seeks to develop a waterless, hygienic toilet that doesn’t have to be connected to a sewer.

The University of Toronto was one of eight universities from around the world to receive the initial phase one funding of almost $400,000 each. That investment allowed the teams to test their conceptual design. Those designs are being showcased at the Gates Foundation’s Seattle headquarters, where the Reinvent the Toilet Fair is being held.

“A lot of science has gone into our work, but we have been careful in our design to ensure that any of the equipment and processes we use can be easily repaired and managed in a remote community by people with limited resources and training,” explains Yu-Ling Cheng, Director of the Centre for Global Engineering at Toronto.

“The result is a toilet design that will not only address the pressing challenges associated with poor sanitation, but is sustainable and usable by some of the poorest people in the world.”

Traditional toilets—which rely on running water, an extensive sewer network, and an expensive processing system—are currently failing to the meet the needs of 2.5 billion people around the world according to the Gates Foundation. An estimated 1.5 million children die each year due to diarrhea caused by poor sanitation.

The Toronto team’s efforts were supported by partners at the University of Edinburgh, Western University, OCAD University, and technical experts in Bangladesh.

Source: University of Toronto

Related Articles