Reinventing the Toilet

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The Engineering for Developing Communities team poses with the solar collector it is developing for the system.
Professor Karl Linden holds up a piece of biochar

Students in CU’s Engineering for Developing Communities program are developing a waterless, solar-biochar toilet to help address a sanitation challenge affecting nearly 40 percent of the world’s population.

Environmental engineering professors Karl Linden and Scott Summers are working with the students, along with Alan Weimer of chemical and biological engineering. The team received a 16-month grant of nearly $780,000 from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation last fall as part of the “Reinvent the Toilet Challenge.”

The team’s design involves using concentrated sunlight delivered through a bundle of fiber optic cables to heat and decompose toilet waste for reuse as biochar to improve agricultural soils.

“This project integrates areas of expertise at CU in solar-thermal processes, disinfection, and biochar that would not typically work together and creates a great team to tackle such a complex and important problem as sustainable sanitation solutions in developing countries,” says Linden, who is the principal investigator on the project.

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