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17 August 2012 | PR 12/153

Loughborough’s Reinvent the Toilet Challenge awarded prize by Bill Gates

Felicity Milton

Bill Gates with the Loughborough University prototype (image: Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation)

Loughborough University has won a prestigious prize of $60,000 in an international competition organised by The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop a reinvented toilet that is clean, safe, durable and affordable for the poor without the need for connection to electricity or a sewer. This reinvented toilet should be a viable solution in wealthy nations as well as in the developing world where 2.5 billion people lack access to safe and affordable sanitation.

The prize was awarded to the Loughborough team for its prototype toilet which aims to convert human waste into carbonised material to provide heat, minerals for soil conditioning, and water for flushing and hand-washing.  It uses a process called Continuous Thermal Hydrocarbonisation which kills all pathogens to create safe to handle, valuable material and uses power from heat generated during processing. The toilet is designed to work in both single-family and multi-user contexts with daily running costs of just a few pence per person. 

Three prototype technologies were recognised for most closely matching the criteria for the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge.  Loughborough was awarded second prize, with the California Institute of Technology and the University of Toronto respectively receiving first and third prizes. 

The Loughborough team is currently showcasing its prototype at the Reinvent the Toilet Fair at the Foundation’s headquarters in Seattle. This event features the work of nearly 40 Foundation grant holders and other partners from its Water, Sanitation and Hygiene program, in order to inspire collaboration around the shared mission of reinventing the toilet.

“Innovative solutions change people’s lives for the better,” said Foundation Co-chair Bill Gates. “If we apply creative thinking to everyday challenges, such as dealing with human waste, we can fix some of the world’s toughest problems.”

“It’s unconscionable that 2.5 billion people suffer today because they don’t have access to a toilet,” said Chris Elias, president of the Foundation’s Global Development Program. “At the Reinvent the Toilet Fair, leading thinkers and inventors are coming to Seattle to show the progress they’ve made in developing a reinvented toilet. We need these types of innovations to not only help manage the problem of dealing with human waste, but to help advance progress across a broader range of global challenges.”

Almost one year ago, the Foundation challenged universities to design toilets that can capture and process human waste without piped water, sewer or electrical connections, and transform human waste into useful resources.  Eight universities from around the world were chosen for the challenge. Loughborough was the only UK university to be awarded a grant, receiving $400,000 for research. 

Professor M. Sohail, Loughborough’s project lead, said, “It was the opportunity of a lifetime to present our research to Mr Gates and we are extremely honoured to receive this prestigious award.”   

“Loughborough University has an outstanding reputation for applying its cross-cutting research to tackle global issues,” said Professor Myra Nimmo, Loughborough University’s Pro Vice Chancellor for Research.  “This challenge has brought together our experts in sanitation, chemical, materials and water engineering and design. I am delighted that their expertise has been recognised with this prestigious award.”

−ENDS−

For all media enquiries contact:

Professor M. Sohail (Khan)
Civil and Building Engineering
Loughborough University
T: 01509 222890
E: M.Sohail@lboro.ac.uk 

Anna Seddon
Marketing Manager (Enterprise)
Loughborough University
T: 01509 223445
E: A.J.Seddon@lboro.ac.uk 

Notes for editors:

1. The Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WSH) initiative is part of the foundation’s Global Development Program, which addresses issues such as agricultural development and financial services - problems that affect the world’s poorest people but do not receive adequate attention. WSH has committed more than $370 million to this area, with a focus on developing sustainable sanitation services that work for everyone, including the poor.

2. Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It was awarded the coveted Sunday Times University of the Year 2008-09 title, and is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in national newspaper league tables. In the 2011 National Student Survey, Loughborough was voted one of the top universities in the UK, and has topped the Times Higher Education league for the UK’s Best Student Experience every year since the poll's inception in 2006. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, the University has been awarded six Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

Loughborough is also the UK’s premier university for sport. It has perhaps the best integrated sports development environment in the world and is home to some of the country’s leading coaches, sports scientists and support staff. It also has the country’s largest concentration of world-class training facilities across a wide range of sports.

It is a member of the 1994 Group of 19 leading research-intensive universities. The Group was established in 1994 to promote excellence in university research and teaching. Each member undertakes diverse and high-quality research, while ensuring excellent levels of teaching and student experience.

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