Poo power is rapidly becoming the energy source of choice in many countries, powering everything from homes to motorcycles. Now scientists from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) have invented a new toilet system that not only turns human waste into electricity and fertilizers, but also reduces the amount of water needed for flushing by up to 90%!

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The system is known as the No-Mix Vacuum Toilet, due to its vacuum suction technology that is similar to those found on aircraft. The toilet system works by having two chambers separate the liquid and solid wastes so that only 0.2 liters (.05 gallons) of water are required for flushing instead of the usual 4 to 6 liters (1-1.5 gallons). If this system is installed in your average public restroom, it is estimated that is would save about 160,000 liters per year (42,267 gallons)!

The No-Mix Vacuum Toilet then diverts the liquid waste to a processing facility where components used for fertilizers — nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium can be recovered. Meanwhile all solid waste is sent to a bioreactor where it will be digested to release bio-gas which contains methane. The gas can then be converted to electricity and used to fuel power plants or fuel cells.

Grey water will of course be released into the drainage system where it will be treated, while any leftover food that is detected can be sent either to the bioreactors or turned into compost and mixed with soil, resulting in a complete recovery of resources.

Associate Professor Wang Jing-Yuan, Director of the Residues and Resource Reclamation Centre (R3C) at NTU who is leading the research project, said: “The ultimate aim is not only for the new toilet system to save water, but to have a complete recovery of resources so that none will be wasted in resource-scarce Singapore.”

“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,” Prof Wang said. “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 project’s ultimate aim is to convert all of the country’s waste into useful resources. It is all part of Singapore’s National Research Foundation’s Competitive Research Programme, which aims to transform communities that are not linked to the main sewerage system.

+ Nanyang Technological University

Via Science Daily