Human waste project trumps the Bill Gates competition

A team of researchers from British Universities has been granted funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop a prototype system for recovering drinkable water and harvesting hydrogen […]

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By Tom Gibson

A team of researchers from British Universities has been granted funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop a prototype system for recovering drinkable water and harvesting hydrogen energy from human faecal waste.

The team of researchers from Imperial College London, the University of Manchester and Durham University beat more than 2,000 other proposals. They believe the technology could provide a cheap device for people in the developing world to generate clean water and energy from waste and a sustainable source of hydrogen energy that could be used to power homes in developed countries.

Bacteria in the device helps extract energy and clean water from human faecal waste. During the first stage of the project the team hope to develop a stand-alone sanitation device which could make it easier and cheaper for people in developing countries to adopt the technology where large sewage networks may not exist.

Martyn McLachlan, a research fellow from Imperial College said: “In the future we may see homes in the UK generating their own clean water, energy and fertilizer simply by doing what comes naturally to us all once or twice day. More important are the implications for developing countries, where the provision of clean drinking water is essential for supporting life and self-generated energy could be used to support economic growth.”

The researchers plan to have a prototype ready to demonstrate by 2013.