Next time you see a dog lapping thirstily at a toilet bowl, pause for thought – next time, it could be you.
A new invention – funded by Bill Gates – aims to turn used toilet water into drinking water.
Manchester University’s Sarah Haigh is an expert in nanotechnology – the science of manipulating atoms in matter – and says, it could make waste water from toilets safe to drink.
Sarah Haigh is working on a device which will turn toilet waste into fuel – and drinking water
Number 2.0 A scaffold device holding a mixture of bacteria and tiny metal nano-particles will react with the water to extract useful hydrogen, with the remainder filtered again to produce clean water
The innovation – which has been funded by billionaire Bill Gates – could transform the lives of millions of people in the third world.
Haigh believes a new range of materials could extract energy from human waste.
Although the result may not be bottled mineral water, the researcher says the results could be the difference between life-and-death in regions without clean water.
She said: ‘I get a lot of comments about the research I do. I don’t mind people making jokes as long as they’re clean ones.
‘There has been a lot of research into biofuels. There is a lot of energy already present in human waste. Nano-scale materials mean that you can harvest the hydrogen and turn it into hydrozene – which is basically rocket fuel.
The expert, from Manchester University’sschool of materials, believes that a scaffold device holding a mixture of bacteria and tiny metal nano-particles will react with the water to extract useful hydrogen, with the remainder filtered again to produce clean water.
The innovation – which has been funded by billionaire Bill Gates – could transform the lives of millions of people in the third world
Dr Haigh, who working with scientists at Imperial College London and Durham University, was given an initial $100,000 (63,000) from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Their idea for an inexpensive fuel-producing, water-cleaning device for the developing world, beat more than 2,000 other proposals.
And the group stand to receive a further $1m from the Gates next year if they can demonstrate the chemical reactions they propose can actually work.
The Microsoft founder – one of the world’s richest men – has promised to sink his fortune on combating worldwide poverty.
The researchers plan to have a prototype ready to demonstrate by 2013.
Dr Haigh said: ‘The phrase ‘off to spend a penny’ is used in polite society to refer to a visit to the lavatory.
We plan to turn this essential everyday outgoing into an investment by developing novel materials that convert natural waste into a useable resource.
‘This technology will be particularly important for remote locations in developing countries and will have the added benefits of reduced pollution and lower waste disposal costs,’ she said.