Waste Not, Want Not: Researchers Turn Poo Into Energy
June 27, 2012

Waste Not, Want Not: Researchers Turn Poo Into Energy

Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com

While some great thoughts emerge in the bathroom, there is one great idea that was inspired by the bathroom.

Scientists from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) have decided to harness the power of poo, by turning it into electricity and fertilizer.

“Having the human waste separated at source and processed on-site would lower costs needed in recovering resources, as treating mixed waste is energy intensive and not cost-effective,” Wang Jing-Yuan, Director of the Residues and Resource Reclamation Centre said in a press release. “With our innovative toilet system, we can use simpler and cheaper methods of harvesting the useful chemicals and even produce fuel and energy from waste.”

The scientists have invented a new toilet system that turns human waste into a form of energy betwork, while also reducing the amount of water needed for flushing by up to 90 percent.

The No-Mix Vacuum Toilet has two chambers that separate your liquids from your solids. The toilet uses vacuum suction technology to flush liquids with just 0.2 liters of water, while solids will require a liter. A conventional toilet uses about 4 to 6 liters of water per flush.

If the No-Mix Vacuum Toilet were to be installed in a public restroom that saw 100 flushes a day, it would save about 160,000 liters of water a year.

As far as fertilizer goes, the toilet will help divert the liquid waste to a processing facility where components used for fertilizer - such as nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium - can be recovered and properly distributed.

The stinkier end of the spectrum will be distributed to a bioreactor, where it will be digested to release bio-gas, which contains methane. Methane can be used to replace natural gas in stoves for cooking, thus leading one to believe that some really do produce enough potency to cook with.

The scientists also will push "gray water," which is used for laundry, shower and the kitchen sink, back into the drainage system without needing a complex water treatment. Leftover food wastes can be sent to the bioreactors or turned into compost and mixed with soil.

The No-Mix Vacuum Toilet took researchers one and a half years to develop, and it will be showcased at the upcoming WasteMET Asia 2012 between July 1 and July 4.

The researchers believe that if all goes well, the world can expect to start sitting on the new toilet system in the next three years.