The waste produced by every human being can be the key to producing energy and potable water in developing countries that lack sanitation.
Janicki Industries Inc., with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has developed a system, the Omniprocessor, that converts human feces into electricity and clean drinking water.
A pilot project planned in Senegal may be the first step toward solving sanitation issues that kill hundreds of thousands every year, Gates said in a blog post, which includes a video of him drinking Omniprocessor-produced water.
“The water tasted as good as any I’ve had out of a bottle,” Gates said. “And having studied the engineering behind it, I would happily drink it every day. It’s that safe.”
The system boils sewer sludge to separate it into water and solids; the solids are burned to heat the water into steam. The steam is used to generate electricity, and then purified into drinking water. It makes enough electricity to power the system and produces a surplus that can be used by a local community.
A more advanced version of the Omniprocessor will be capable of converting waste from 100,000 people into 23,000 gallons of water and 250 kilowatts of surplus electricity.
“The processor wouldn’t just keep human waste out of the drinking water; it would turn waste into a commodity with real value in the marketplace,” Gates wrote. “It’s the ultimate example of that old expression: one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”