RTI International, Duke Launch Beta-Toilet Prototype in India that processes, recycles and disinfects waste

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC— RTI International, in conjunction with Duke University and the Colorado State University, recently installed its beta prototype for a self-contained, off-the-grid toilet system to serve the billions of people worldwide who don’t have access to adequate sanitation.

Part of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Reinvent the Toilet” challenge, the innovative on-site waste treatment and toilet prototype processes, disinfects, and recycles human waste. This beta prototype has many improvements over the alpha version. Enhancements have been made to the liquid processing, liquid-solid separation system, solid mass drying system and combustion chamber. A new process control system was implemented, making the new system much more autonomous than its predecessor.

“We have a great team of USA and India staff and partners that has enabled us to test, revise and innovate new waste processing solutions,” said Myles Elledge, senior director of international development policy and planning at RTI. "This new beta prototype version installed at our CEPT University test facility is an important step in our product development journey.”

The new sanitation system was installed at the CEPT University in Ahmedabad, where the original prototype has been collecting data for more than a year. Researchers from all sides hope the new beta version will provide even more data and bring them closer to realizing their goal of providing a self-sufficient sanitation system that people will want to use.

“This is the first fully automated test run for our experimental toilet in India, and we’re all very excited,” said Jeff Glass, professor of electrical and computer engineering and mechanical engineering and materials science at Duke, who has led the team responsible for the liquid disinfection technology. “This is a huge milestone for the overall project led by RTI that is very important to all of us that are involved.”

In 2012, RTI, in partnership with Duke University and Colorado State University, received a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Reinvent the Toilet Challenge to develop an on-site waste treatment system and toilet that does not require sewer, water, or electricity infrastructure. The waste treatment system is designed to disinfect human liquid waste, dry and burn human solid waste and convert the resulting combustion energy into stored electricity, all at a cost of less than 5 cents (U.S.) per user per day. The project received additional funding in 2014 to further develop and transition the prototype system for field testing in India in 2014-2016.

A new human waste system could significantly impact the livelihood of the more than 2.5 billion people worldwide who do not have access to safe and effective sanitation. In India, millions of people in India resort to open defecation every day (597 million), and diarrheal disease is estimated to kill one child nearly every minute.

Learn more about the project at www.abettertoilet.org.

Highlights

  • RTI International, in conjunction with Duke University and the Colorado State University, recently installed its beta prototype for a self-contained, off-the-grid toilet system to serve the billions of people worldwide who don’t have access to adequate sanitation
  • Part of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Reinvent the Toilet” challenge, the innovative on-site waste treatment and toilet prototype processes, disinfects, and recycles human waste
  • The new sanitation system was installed at the CEPT University in Ahmedabad, where the original prototype has been collecting data for more than a year