A revolutionary University of Colorado Boulder toilet, fueled by the sun, will assist some of the 2.5 billion people around the world lacking safe and sustainable sanitation. The technology will be unveiled in India this month.

The self-contained, waterless toilet, designed and built using a $777,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has the capability of heating human waste to a high enough temperature to sterilize it and create biochar, a highly porous charcoal, said project principal investigator Karl Linden, professor of environmental engineering. The biochar can be used to both increase crop yields and sequester carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas.

According to the Gates Foundation, the awards recognize researchers who are developing ways to manage human waste that will help improve the health and lives of people around the world. Unsafe methods to capture and treat human waste result in serious health problems and death – food and water tainted with pathogens from fecal matter results in the deaths of roughly 700,000 children each year.

Linden’s team is one of 16 around the world funded by the Gates “Reinvent the Toilet Challenge” since 2011.

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