Turning human waste into water
Sometime last year a video emerged of Bill Gates drinking a glass of crystal clear water that was actually produced from raw sewage, the process of turning the diseased ridden liquid into fresh water, amazingly, took just five minutes. The video spread around the world like wildfire, and we discovered that the machine which produced this miracle is called the Janicki Omni Processor. It’s been hailed as a possible life saver in parts of the world that are crying out for clean drinking water, such as Sub-Saharan Africa et al.
So miraculous was this, in both shock factor and future possibilities, media outlets throughout the world lit up with images and a frenzy began. Although many people may have seen this as a publicity stunt, Gates made no excuses in taking total advantage of the wider platform to unveil, what Josh Motteram writing in Rootnotion, describes as a “low-cost sewage purification system that is able to convert sewage into clean drinking water, whilst also producing energy at the same time.”
The long standing, seemingly never ending, problems of water shortages and sanitation concerns are a continuing topic of conversation around the world, and never more prominently for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Having long been patrons of Wateraid, their understanding of the problems that face at least 2 billion people in the world today constantly spur them on to find solutions.
These startling facts include:
- Poor sanitation, which kills 700,000 children a year.
- Most solutions from industrialised nations don’t work due to expensive infrastructure.
- Many cities in developing nations, such as Dakar for example, see many numbers of its citizens not connected to a sewage line.
In a bid to prevent disease spreading from human waste, there has become an urgent need for prudent disposal and the OmniProcessor, designed by a small, family-run company called Janicki Bioenergy, has been in development for 2 years, given the necessary funding from The Gates Foundation, ‘Reinvent the Toilet Challenge.’ The actual machine, which stands approximately the size of two school buses placed side by side, is capable of handling waste from 100,000 people, producing up to 86,000 litres of potable water and 250 kw of electricity every day. Engineered from scratch, the machine uses an innovative blend of steam power and water filtration. It not only boils the waste and captures the filtered water vapour, but the steam engine is powered by the waste itself.
Following the unveiling, the machine was taken apart and transferred to Dakar, Senegal, to reassemble it for real-life testing. A few months later the machine was up and running and proving its worth in fulfilling its desired role. But it’s not finished yet, the idea wasn’t just to turn human waste into water, it was to reinvent the sanitation conditions in countries where they unfortunately kill. The future sees the advancement into burning most types of garbage, as well as waste, and honing a business plan so that other developing countries can reap the benefits of this amazing technology.
It’s encouraging to see the number of water based inventions that either – Filter water, produce, purify or distribute water. When you have pockets as deep as the Gates’, there’s no end as to what can be achieved.
Photo by SuSanA Secretariat