Bill Gates reinvents the toilet

A project to 'Reinvent the toilet' to process human waste without water, energy or sewer lines has been awarded a grant by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Scientists at the Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in the Netherlands will develop the technology for use in developing countries to provide safe and affordable sanitation.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced the grant at the AfricaSan conference in Rwanda as part of more than $40 million in new investments launching its Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene strategy.

The scientists at TU Delft will apply microwave technology to transform human waste into electricity. First, the human waste will be dried. Then the waste will be gasified using plasma, which is created by microwaves in tailor-made equipment.

The process will yield syngas, a mixture of carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrogen (H2). The syngas will then be fed to a solid oxide fuel cell stack for electricity generation.

Sylvia Mathews Burwell is the president of the Global Development Program at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

She said: “To address the needs of the 2.6 billion people who don’t have access to safe sanitation, we not only must reinvent the toilet, we also must find safe, affordable and sustainable ways to capture, treat, and recycle human waste.


“Most importantly, we must work closely with local communities to develop lasting sanitation solutions that will improve their lives.”

You can watch the Gates Foundation video on the ‘Reinvent the toilet’ project here.

Alison Brown

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