(Bloomberg) — 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 Jan. 5 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 86,000
liters (23,000 gallons) of water and 250 kilowatts of surplus
“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
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Will Wade, Steven Frank