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University lands funding for toilet research
Posted on Friday, November 30, 2012

For the cause of creating a new waterless toilet, scientists at the University of Toronto (UT) have been given more than $2 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF). The UT research team is working on a more efficient version of a toilet that implements a sand filter and ultraviolet disinfection. Their brainchild earned third place in the BMGF's 2012 Reinventing the Toilet Challenge. The coalition of scientists also includes contributors from Western University and the University of Queensland, and the scientists hope to have a prototype up and running by December of 2013.


The UT's toilet is being designed to work in developing countries without access to plumbing systems and sewers. An article appearing on CNN.com points out that, as of 2008, just over 60 percent of the global population had reliable access to toilets. The shortage has led to severe epidemic health problems in developing countries who have yet to catch up to the Western standard of sanitization convenience.


"I am very proud of our entire team and the work we have done up to now," said professor Yu-Ling Cheng, the director of the Centre for Global Engineering in the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering at UT. "We have proven that our concept works technically, now we are going to get busy to make sure it will work for the users - some of the 2.6 billion people in the world who do not have access to basic sanitation."


Microsoft kingpin battles worldwide sanitation crisis

Founded by computer tycoon Bill Gates and his wife, with Warren Buffett signed on as a co-trustee, the philanthropic BMGF works alongside researchers developing innovative solutions for global poverty and health, according to the organization's website.


The Reinventing the Toilet Challenge required academic researchers to develop an affordable toilet that could function without running water or electricity and convert human waste into energy and water. The first place winner was a solar-powered, water and hydrogen creating toilet constructed at the California Institute of Technology. Researchers from the Lounghborough University in the U.K. came in second with a toilet that turned waste into biological charcoal, minerals and drinkable water.


"Innovative solutions change people’s lives for the better," said 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."

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