It's time to get our sh!t together and research new sanitation technologies that don't use plumbing, don't produce pollutants and are powered by the sun. It sounds like a lofty goal, but that's exactly what a team of engineers from Caltech did when they won an international challenge to design the "toilet of tomorrow."
At the Reinvent the Toilet Fair held last week in Seattle, the engineers demonstrated a self-contained, solar-powered, electrochemical waste treatment system meant to overcome challenges in water, sanitation and hygiene in developing countries. Clean flush toilets require a lot of infrastructure and fresh water, and nearly 40% of the world's population has access to neither, according to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The team at Caltech spent a year building their prototypes for a Western-style toilet, squat toilet, and urinal. Their innovation won them the grand prize in a $40 million program initiated by the Gates Foundation, which aims to improve health through safe sanitation.