Unit Operations Approach for Rapid Disinfection of Human Waste (University of Toronto, Canada) - Phase 4 update

  • steve4real
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User Interface Feedback Survey

Hi SuSanA,
I work as the Project Manager for University of Toronto's Reinvent the Toilet Challenge. We are doing a field trial in Bangladesh this May with a toilet mockup to gain feedback and design input.

In addition to interviewing users about what what worked / did not and how we can improve it, I'm wondering if there have been any studies that passively test user interfaces? We think it would be valuable to observe how the toilet performs, without formally interviewing users, but a little fuzzy on how to measure this and set it up. We want to avoid seeming like we are monitoring bathroom habits.

Any advice / thoughts / anything would be useful!

Thanks,

Steve

Stephen Sauder, M.Sc., M.A., B.A
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Centre for Global Engineering, University of Toronto
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  • Marijn Zandee
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Re: User Interface Feedback Survey

Hi Steve,

That is a tricky one. As it may be hard to do without invading privacy. I don't know of any studies.

Without knowing what sort if toilet you are testing it is also hard to give suggestions. but I assume there is a "correct way" of using the toilet, as there tends to when introducing new technology. One thing you can more or less test is how intuitive the use of your toilet is by providing very limited instructions and checking whether it has been used properly and whether it has remained clean.

I have an intuitive sense that if a toilet is easy to use and looks nice, people will try to keep it clean. But all of this will be very hard to document, let alone fit into an analytical framework.

kind regards

Marijn

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  • muench
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Re: User Interface Feedback Survey

Dear Steve,
Good to hear that you are now also with a Gates-funded grant, well done! I will contact you soon about formally introducing this grant here on the forum. B)

About your question:
There was a similar question about usability testing about a year ago on the forum. With the help of the wonderful search function of this forum, I found it again. It was a post from Ashley Wheaton, please see here:
forum.susana.org/forum/categories/52-mob...mit=12&start=24#1027

Does it help at all?

Regards,
Elisabeth

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  • steve4real
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Re: Sanitation NoW - Unit Operations Approach for Rapid Disinfection of Human Waste (University of Toronto, Canada)

Hello SuSanA,
It's my pleasure to introduce our grant with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

A unit operations approach for rapid disinfection of human waste based on drying/smoldering of solid and sand filtration/uv disinfection of liquid waste.

Name of lead organization: University of Toronto,

Primary contact at lead organization: Yu-Ling Cheng (PI) and Stephen Sauder (PM)

Grantee location: Toronto, Canada; London, Canada; Brisbane, Australia; Dhaka, Bangladesh

Developing country where the research is being or will be tested:
We are conducting field trials in Bangladesh over the course of 2013 in three locations (Urban Slum and two Rural Villages outside of Dhaka)

Short description of the project:
To describe how it works, one needs to follow the process from beginning to end: the waste is collected through a squat-style toilet (the target market is Asia and Africa, where such toilets are common). Waste will then be separated into liquid and solid streams using standard de-watering techniques. Disinfection of the solid stream will proceed by means of smouldering, a flameless combustion process similar to what occurs inside of a coal barbecue. For the liquid stream, a sand / UV filter will be used. We are still in the process of narrowing design pathways with a potential for a different unit approach to liquid disinfection.

Objectives:
The goal of this project is to develop a technology for treating solid waste streams through mechanical dehydration and smoldering that will sanitize feces within 24 hours. We also intend to develop a method for sanitizing urine through membrane filtration and ultraviolet disinfection. Essentially we are building a household scale wastewater treatment plant.

Start and end date: Started June 2011 – January 31st 2014 (edit on 2 May 2018: Phase 4 of the project is from Oct. 2017 to Sept. 2019

Grant type: RTTC Round 1 Phase 2
Grant size: $ 2,742,655 according to www.gatesfoundation.org/How-We-Work/Quic...s/2012/10/OPP1069472

Funding for this research currently ongoing (yes/no): yes
Research or implementation partners: Western University and University of Queensland

Links, further readings – results to date:

Our website: cgen.utoronto.ca

Presentation:
www.susana.org/images/documents/07-cap-d...y-toronto-canada.pdf

Presentation Video:


1-minute video about the concept (produced just after the Reinvent the Toilet Fair in Seattle, August 2012):
!

Stephen Sauder, M.Sc., M.A., B.A
Project Manager | Reinvent the Toilet
Centre for Global Engineering, University of Toronto
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  • KimAndersson
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Re: Unit Operations Approach for Rapid Disinfection of Human Waste (University of Toronto, USA and Bangladesh)

Dear Steve,
Thanks for this nice introduction of your research project. Your concept is really innovative and when seeing the videos from your project experiences so far, I’m filled with questions. Here are some of these that I hope you can answer.
- From what can be seen in the video from the Reinvent the Toilet Fair in Seattle, August 2012, the system was still very much a laboratory set-up; have you been able to advance towards a system that could be installed in a household or a multi-family building? I guess this question is also related to the cost of the system; will it be possible to achieve a feasible system in economic terms?
- From a technical point of view the system looks quite complex, with a lot of mechanical components. What are your strategies to sustain the system in time considering the system complexity and your target context of slum and rural settlements?
- The system also seems quite labor intensive; what will be the requirements when it comes to operating and maintaining the system for the users?
- You mention that the smouldering system is self-sustaining, but I guess that you need a constant input of fuel? What type of fuels can be used and what quantities are needed?
- Finally, have you considered the potential for reuse? For example have you analyzed the contents of nutrients in the final waste streams?

I’m looking forward to hear more about the progress of your project.

Thanks and best wishes!
/Kim

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Stockholm Environment Institute
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  • steve4real
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Re: Unit Operations Approach for Rapid Disinfection of Human Waste (University of Toronto, USA and Bangladesh)

Dear Kim,
Thanks for your questions.

- From what can be seen in the video from the Reinvent the Toilet Fair in Seattle, August 2012, the system was still very much a laboratory set-up; have you been able to advance towards a system that could be installed in a household or a multi-family building? I guess this question is also related to the cost of the system; will it be possible to achieve a feasible system in economic terms?


Our current target for Phase 2 is a 10 person scale toilet that can be used in household or multi-family building. As with the other grantees our target is to go below 5 cents per user per day.

- From a technical point of view the system looks quite complex, with a lot of mechanical components. What are your strategies to sustain the system in time considering the system complexity and your target context of slum and rural settlements?

Again our system is constantly evolving and we are working on reducing mechanical / user touch points. We aim to have the simplest minimal design that can work. We will be field testing our Toilet in both an urban slum and two rural villages in Bangladesh.

- The system also seems quite labor intensive; what will be the requirements when it comes to operating and maintaining the system for the users?

We would like to maintain a user experience that mimics conventional systems. However, we are thinking that our toilet will require some sort of a daily maintenance run to initiate the smoldering process.

- You mention that the smouldering system is self-sustaining, but I guess that you need a constant input of fuel? What type of fuels can be used and what quantities are needed?

Our goal is to have the reaction self-sustaining. At a ten person scale this is proving to be difficult and we are investigating alternatives. The fuel is human waste - and roughly 3 kg of solid waste per day based on 10 users.

- Finally, have you considered the potential for reuse? For example have you analyzed the contents of nutrients in the final waste streams?


We are hopeful that the sanitized ash can be used as a soil conditioner. On the liquid side of the treatment there is more potential for reuse and we are looking at analyzing the available nutrients, heat, and energy.

I hope this was informative. We are continuing to iterate our design and have moved away from the bench top setup you see in the materials. We are not yet at a point where we have integrated modules and once these have been further refined / tested we will post more information.

Cheers,

Steve

Stephen Sauder, M.Sc., M.A., B.A
Project Manager | Reinvent the Toilet
Centre for Global Engineering, University of Toronto
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  • KimAndersson
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Re: Unit Operations Approach for Rapid Disinfection of Human Waste (University of Toronto, USA and Bangladesh)

Dear Steve,
Thanks for addressing all my questions. I’m keen on hearing more about your progress and how you tackle these challenges; so please keep posting updates!
Best wishes!
/Kim

Kim Andersson
Stockholm Environment Institute
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  • muench
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Re: Unit Operations Approach for Rapid Disinfection of Human Waste (University of Toronto, USA and Bangladesh)

Dear Steve,

I had asked a question about the costs for your process, but have now moved that discussion to a separate cost thread, because it applies actually to all the grants; see here:
forum.susana.org/forum/categories/97-ena...luding-capital-costs
(feel free to answer here or there about the costs of your process)

My other question on maintenance still remains for you:

You wrote:

However, we are thinking that our toilet will require some sort of a daily maintenance run to initiate the smoldering process.

Tricky, very tricky... Getting ordinary users to do any maintenance on their toilets is very hard... (except for special toilet enthousiasts like you and me!). Maybe you have a chance if it involves only pressing a button (that could be automated?). Or what kind of maintenance activities do you envisage at this stage?

Regards,
Elisabeth

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  • steve4real
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Re: Unit Operations Approach for Rapid Disinfection of Human Waste (University of Toronto, USA and Bangladesh)

Dear Elisabeth,
Yes - finance is a very important aspect for all the BMGF projects. At this point however, we we are focusing on developing our process to work first. After which we will be optimizing to make it as economical as possible.

In regards to your other question - again we aren't sure what the requirements will be. We are building a 10 person scale household toilet and the household will be in charge of maintaining it - the same way we all maintain our own toilets. We are working hard at minimizing user touch points and creating a magic 'button' that would encompass the daily maintenance.

I hope this helps - we should have more to share on our process in the next few weeks.

Cheers,

Steve

Stephen Sauder, M.Sc., M.A., B.A
Project Manager | Reinvent the Toilet
Centre for Global Engineering, University of Toronto
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  • dorothee.spuhler
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Re: Yu Ling's part in expert chat

Thank you Elisabeth for the write up and thank you Yu-Ling for the participation in the chat!

I actually have another question:
There must be an important volume of sand/faeces/ash mix accumulating in the process? How are you planning to handle this? What will be the frequency of maintenance and what would happen with ash/sand product?

Best regards
Dorothee

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  • muench
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Re: Yu Ling's part in expert chat

Dear all,

For those of you who are particularly interested in the research project of Yu-Ling Cheng (University of Toronto, Canada), I am giving you below a summary of what was in the expert chat about her project (the expert chat was mentioned here: forum.susana.org/forum/categories/139-ge...te-sept-12-2013#5624 )

As a reminder, her project is about:
The Toronto Toilet - Unit operations approach for rapid disinfection of human waste based on drying/smoldering of solid and sand filtration/uv disinfection of liquid waste.

Her presentation starts at 35:45 into the recording, i.e. exactly here:



The question and answer session started at this point in the recording:


Her powerpoint slides are available here:

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The first question to her was not recorded properly but I assume it was "what is the sand added for?"?

Yu-Ling's answer: We are talking here about a smoldering process (for example, a burning cigarette is also a smoldering process). We need to get air to the surface of the solid fuel (faeces). The faeces would normally just compress. By mixing with sand we can change the consistency and this helps to get air into the faeces. The sand also acts as a filtering medium as well.

Arno asked: Have you looked at the fate of nitrogen?

Answer: Not yet done. We are focussing on getting enough energy there to pasteurise the faeces.

Tove asked: You mentioned 30 L of liquid - is that in total or for anal cleansing water alone?

Answer: 30 L is the total volume (we are designing based on 2 L of anal cleansing water per day; we have data to show that this is even a conservative estimate). Tove was surprised and said they estimated 2.5 L per day; they are using a normal shower for the anal cleansing in their toilet design)

Bincy asked Yu-Ling and Aaron: "Your toilet is on a raised platform; can you also make it manageable on the ground or under ground?" (meaning that the proessing part would be below ground - the toilet seat itself above ground of course).

Aaron answerd and Yu-Ling agreed on his answer: We are working towards this but it will come only later. It would be good if the toilet processing part could be underground but still accessible and flood proof. For now we want to avoid complications so the entire toilet system is above ground (also needed because it's all gravity flow).

Arno: an above ground toilet has advantages because it can be more flood proof and more resilient.

I hope you found this write-up useful. Please don't hesitate to put further questions or comments here on the forum. I am sure Yu-Ling will be happy to answer you.

Regards,
Elisabeth

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  • steve4real
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Re: Unit Operations Approach for Rapid Disinfection of Human Waste (University of Toronto, USA and Bangladesh)

Hi Dorothy,
Thanks for your question. My apologies it has taken so long to get back to you. It is crunch time for us at 'Sanitation NoW!' (no water no watts no waste).

In regards to the sand / feces mixture we are evaluating a few different mixtures to optimize the process somewhere in between a 1 to 1 and 3 to 1 sand to feces ratio seems to work the best. The ash accumulation is negligible in the process around 4g and we are looking at how to capture this without it turning to dust. The sand gets reused in the system and the ash will get filtered out. There will be a daily process where a member of the household will have to start the sanitation appliance. Also the potential for having a monthly maintenance operation.

We will get delivery of the first integrated prototype in the next few weeks and know more about what will be required then. We'll update the forum in the next few weeks about our project.

Cheers,

Steve

Stephen Sauder, M.Sc., M.A., B.A
Project Manager | Reinvent the Toilet
Centre for Global Engineering, University of Toronto
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