Assisted by a $1.18 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and its Reinvent the Toilet challenge, engineers have the goal to develop a working prototype at Duke University within 15 months that can turn sewage into water, energy, and useful byproducts for third world countries. The prototype will operate without electricity or water or sewer connections.
The self-contained toilet can be transported to anywhere in the world in a 20-foot container. Processing human waste from up to 1,200 people per day, the neighborhood toilets will transport the waste directly to the processing facility where the waste will be turned into water.
Water heated above 705 degrees Fahrenheit under pressure turns into a supercritical fluid that is less dense that water. Adding oxygen to the mix burns up the human waste. This is known as supercritical water oxidation (SCWO). SCWO is powerful enough to successfully treat and dilute chemical weapons.
To date, the SCWO process is the cleanest and fastest treatment method to turn human waste into potable water.
Currently, one team of Duke engineers is perfecting the prototype while a second team of engineers is working on the business plans to actually bring the technology to third world countries.