“The water tasted as good as any I’ve had out of a bottle. And having studied the engineering behind it, I would happily drink it every day. It’s that safe.”

This huge, potentially game-changing machine, invented by Janicki Bioenergy, turns human-made sewer sludge into clean drinking water, electricity, and ash, three useful commodities. Yes, it’s true: poop to potable water. Supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Janicki Omniprocessor will be a part of a pilot program to improve sanitation in Dakar, Senegal, and perhaps eventually in other nations around the globe.

This video explains how it works, complete with a demonstration by Bill Gates: drinking clean, delicious water that had been human feces only a few minutes before. From GatesNotes:

Why would anyone want to turn waste into drinking water and electricity?

Because a shocking number of people, at least 2 billion, use latrines that aren’t properly drained. Others simply defecate out in the open. The waste contaminates drinking water for millions of people, with horrific consequences: Diseases caused by poor sanitation kill some 700,000 children every year, and they prevent many more from fully developing mentally and physically.

If we can develop safe, affordable ways to get rid of human waste, we can prevent many of those deaths and help more children grow up healthy…

Through the ingenious use of a steam engine, it produces more than enough energy to burn the next batch of waste. In other words, it powers itself, with electricity to spare. The next-generation processor, more advanced than the one I saw, will handle waste from 100,000 people, producing up to 86,000 liters of potable water a day and a net 250 kw of electricity.

If we get it right, it will be a good example of how philanthropy can provide seed money that draws bright people to work on big problems, eventually creating a self-supporting industry… Our goal is to make the processors cheap enough that entrepreneurs in low- and middle-income countries will want to invest in them and then start profitable waste-treatment businesses.

File under sustainability, technology, and poop, then watch this next: Poop Guy: A dad that’s revolutionizing sanitation in Pune, India.

via BBC News.

See more videos about...