Bill Gates' and Samsung's prototype toilet can turn your poop into ashes

The technology is part of a challenge launched by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Loukia Papadopoulos
A new kind of toilet turns poop into ashes.jpg
A new kind of toilet turns poop into ashes.

htomas/iStock 

Samsung has engineered a safe and efficient toilet that turns your excrement into ashes, according to a press release published last month by the firm.

The prototype is part of the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge, an initiative launched by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2011.

Providing access to adequate sanitation systems to those who need it most

“There are 4.5 billion people in the world without access to adequate sanitation systems,” said in a 2018 statement Doulaye Koné, deputy director of water, sanitation and health at the Gates Foundation. “We need new science and new engineering to solve the problem.”

It seems Samsung has stepped up to the challenge with its new toilet.

“During three years of research and development, SAIT worked on the basic design and developed the component and modular technology, leading to the successful development of a prototype for household use. The product is energy-efficient with effluent treatment capability, and meets the performance required by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for commercialization for a household-use reinvented toilet,” wrote Samsung in its statement.

“The core technologies developed by Samsung include heat-treatment and bioprocessing technologies to kill pathogens from human waste and make the released effluent and solids safe for the environment. The system enables the treated water to be fully recycled. Solid waste is dehydrated, dried and combusted into ashes, while liquid waste is treated through a biological purification process.”

Samsung added that it plans to offer royalty-free licenses of the toilet’s patents to developing countries and continue to provide close consultation to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to help bring the technologies to mass production. The firm further added that the two organizations will work together to identify industry partners willing to commercialize the technology, after making the design more efficient for mass production.

Playing venture capitalist

According to the World Health Organization and UNICEF, about 3.6 billion people are forced to use unsafe sanitation facilities, resulting in half a million children under age 5 dying every year from diarrheal diseases caused by limited access to safe water and hygiene. Through its Reinvent the Toilet Challenges, the Gates Foundation has played the role of venture capitalist to spark technological advancements to solve the world’s severe sanitation problems.

“The last seven years,” Koné said in 2018, “we’ve been able to move these ideas from prototype in the lab, to field testing, to maturing the technology for use by real customers. Now, we are at a stage where companies are coming forward to license these products and develop them for commercial launch.”

Samsung’s latest prototype is just such an idea that could prove a game changer for developing nations much in need of this technology. Will the idea move to mass production or will it stay an inventive and ingenious model that never sees the light of day?

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