Bill Gates, Samsung working on a toilet that turns a pipe into ash

Bill Gates, Samsung working on a toilet that turns a pipe into ash

  • The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation started the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge in 2011 to help improve unsafe sanitation around the world.
  • Samsung’s technology turns waste into ashes and the company plans to allow royalty-free licenses for related patents.
  • The new toilet design uses no water and operates through heat treatment and bioremediation practice.

For more than a decade, Bill Gates has been clearly focused on toilets. As part of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Reinvent the Toilet Challenge was launched in 2011, as part of an effort to transform toilet technologies to safely and effectively manage human waste for the billions of people who use unsafe sanitation facilities worldwide.

The latest project in this challenge comes from Samsung, which has created a toilet that uses no water and can turn human waste into ash.

Born out of Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology, the research and development arm of Samsung Electronics, the team provided the final core technologies and a “successfully developed and tested prototype” to Gates as part of a partnership between the two groups, According to a Samsung press release.

The three years of research and development from Samsung led to a good prototype for home use and the development of modular components and technology with the goal of ease of commercialization.

Core Samsung technologies include heat treatment and bioremediation to kill pathogens from human waste and make emitted effluents and solids safe for the environment. The toilet system makes it possible to fully recycle the treated water. Solid waste is dehydrated, dried and burned to ash, while effluent is processed through a biological purification process.

Samsung plans to provide royalty-free licenses for patents related to the project to developing countries during the commercialization phase and will work with the corporation to bring the technology into mass production.

The toilet is called energy efficient, requires no water, and is a bonus for use in remote areas, the same places where nitrogen and micro-pollutants from human waste can be dangerous to the environment and the people who encounter them.

The Reinvent the Toilet Challenge has remained on a steady track since its inception in 2011, including hosting Reinvented Toilet Expo events over the years. Dolay Kony, deputy director of the Gates Foundation for Water, Sanitation and Health, says at past statement. “We need new science and new engineering to solve the problem.”


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Since John Harrington invented the flush toilet in 1596, it hasn’t seen many changes, although developed nations now have sewage systems and waste treatment plants. However, nearly a billion people are forced to defecate outdoors, and the World Health Organization and UNICEF say 2.8 billion people live in unsafe sanitation, leading to disease.

The first Reinvent the Toilet Fair was held in Seattle in 2012. Since then, dozens of research teams have been at events in China and India, with the best prototypes given ongoing funding to improve their designs.

“We’ve been able to take these ideas from prototype in the lab, to field testing, to maturing the technology for use by real customers,” Kony says. “We are at a stage where companies are moving forward to license and develop these products for commercial launch.”

Samsung’s partnership with Gates gives the company the support needed to turn the idea into a toilet.

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