It’s not the most glamorous piece of technology but scientists from Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University (NTU) have invented a toilet system that uses far less water and which can convert human waste into electricity and fertilizers.
Called the No-Mix Vacuum Toilet the system has two chambers that separate liquid and solid wastes. The toilet uses the same vacuum suction technology found on aircraft lavatories which means flushing urine only takes 6.7 ounces of water while flushing excrement only takes 1 pint of water. In comparison a standard flush currently uses one to one and a half gallons of water.
NTU scientists plan to install the toilets in two NTU restrooms and if all goes as planned they will roll out the system to toilets around the world in the next three years.
According to Associate Professor Wang Jing-Yuan, Director of the Residues and Resource Reclamation Centre (R3C) at NTU:
“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. 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 No-Mix Vacuum Toilet works by diverting liquid waste to a processing facility where its components are converted into fertilizer such as nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus. Solid waste is then sent to a bioreactor where it is released as a bio-gas which contained methane. Methane as an odorless gas can be used as a replacement for natural gas and can be converted to electricity.
While the system shows great promise the implementation of the system on a massive scale could prove too costly for mass consumption in the short-term.