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Earth Technology

Solar-Powered Toilet Torches Waste For Public Health 126

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-just-for-something-and-grins dept.
Daniel_Stuckey writes "With funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's Reinvent the Toilet challenge, [a] team has developed a toilet that uses concentrated solar power to scorch and disinfect human waste, turning feces into a useful byproduct called biochar ... a sanitary charcoal material that is good for soils and agriculture. By converting solid waste to biochar (liquid waste is diverted elsewhere, as it's easier to deal with), the toilet thus allows for sanitary waste disposal without huge infrastructure investments. The toilet itself, called the Sol-Char, is a fascinating bit of engineering. In order to sanitize waste without the help of massive treatment facilities, Linden's team instead designed the toilet to scorch waste in a chamber heated by fiber optic cables that pipe in heat from solar collectors on the toilet's roof. 'A solar concentrator has all this light focused in on one centimeter. It'd be fine if we could bring everyone's fecal waste up to that one point, like burning it with a magnifying glass,' Linden said. 'But that's not practical, so we were thinking of other ways to concentrate that light.'"
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Solar-Powered Toilet Torches Waste For Public Health

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  • by phayes (202222) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @03:43AM (#46497099) Homepage

    There are multiple reasons we pipe sewage away from where we live to be treated and public health isn't people's major motivator. It's smell.

    Even in societies without piping people were digging latrines and putting outhouses way back at the other side of the garden to contain/diminish the odor.

    By scorching feces to sterilize it, it is in effect gasifying it. it's self evident that this system will stink far over and beyond what an outhouse would. Thus while geeky enough to make /.'s front page on a slow Sunday, I doubt this system will see any success.

  • by shitzu (931108) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @04:29AM (#46497197)

    Also - it is crazy complicated. I have a "bio" outhouse in my summer house that is in essence just a plastic container. You fill the bottom and a filtering compartment with sawdust. Liquids go through sawdust and seep under a bush. Every time you take a dump you throw a bit of sawdust on it. It does not smell (actually, as i use juniper sawdust, it smells quite pleasantly like gin). The end result i put under another bush in autumn and use as a fertilizer next spring. Why would i use a complex system of solar power and fiber and lord knows how many dollars to achieve the same end result?

  • by Jody Bruchon (3404363) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @09:17AM (#46497809)
    All the eco-friendly stuff is ignored by building codes, so while this toilet might exist and have potential, good luck getting it to pass local codes for permitting. Whether you want to build a membrane structure (like a yurt) or use composting toilets or harvest rainwater or use solar for your electricity, you'll have a hard time getting any of it approved. If they're going to make toilets like this, they need to make an effort to get building codes across the country fixed to allow lower-footprint solutions. In many places it's even illegal to live with solar/wind alone and they will come after you if you're not connected to the power grid.
  • by Jmc23 (2353706) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @11:08AM (#46498291) Journal
    yeah, because moving away from user built composting toilets with natural materials that can be maintained by a person with 1 hour of training and moving towards complex systems that depend on the latest technology, labs to manufacture and engineers to maintain is good?

Repel them. Repel them. Induce them to relinquish the spheroid. - Indiana University fans' chant for their perennially bad football team