Loughborough University
Leicestershire, UK
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Loughborough University

The View Autumn / Winter 2012

Reinvent the Toilet Challenge
awarded prize by Bill Gates

Reinvent The Toilet

Loughborough 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.

The challenge was to create a toilet that is clean, safe, durable and affordable for the poor without the need for connection to electricity or a sewer. The toilet had to 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.

“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.”

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,” added Professor Myra Nimmo, the 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.”