About 2.5 billion people do not have access to sanitised toilet facilities, according to the UN. Much of this problem lies in India and Sub-Saharan Africa, where an estimated 10 million children under five have died from lack of toilets since 2000.
To help address this problem from the modern world, researchers from Cranfield University in the U.K. have developed a cheap, clean, and eco-friendly nanotechnology toilet that has the ability to generate energy.
The Nano Membrane Toilet project started in 2012 and has since received financial support through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Reinvent the Toilet Challenge, as well as receiving numerous awards for design and technology.
Here’s how it works: After the user “finishes their business,” a smell-proof rotating bowl drops the waste into a holding tank.
For liquid waste, a nanotech membrane filters and condenses the water that passes through it, helping to remove any pathogens from the water. This water vapour is then passed through a channel, with the help of a gas, into a tube of condensing beads that turn the vapor back into pathogen-free liquid. This untainted water can then be used for farm irrigation and even household cleaning.
As for the solid waste, this falls to the bottom of a tank where a battery-powered Archimedes’ screw drops the waste into a second back compartment where it is incinerated and turned into ash energy. Although this part of the toilet is not 100 percent developed yet, the researchers hope the system will be able to charge mobile phones and other small electronic gadgets.
However, throughout the process, it’s pretty unclear what happens to the toilet paper.
Ghana has been suggested as a possible country to trial the new design this year. After that, the toilet hopes to take on the rest of the world. On top of areas with poor sewage systems, the designers believe the toilet could be used in military vehicles and could even replace the old faithful port-a-potty.