Using hydrothermal carbonization – or simply pressure cooking – to manage faecal sludge (Loughborough University, UK)

  • M.Sohail Khan
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Using hydrothermal carbonization – or simply pressure cooking – to manage faecal sludge (Loughborough University, UK)

Reinvent the Toilet@lboro: Using Hydrothermal Carbonization –or simply pressure cooking - to manage faecal sludge.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is funding Loughborough University to invent a waterless, hygienic toilet that is comfortable, safe and affordable to use and will transform waste into energy, clean water, and plant fertilizer.

Loughborough University is developing a toilet that transforms faeces into a highly energetic combustible material. The schools/departments contributing to the project include: Water, Engineering & Development Centre, (WEDC), Chemical Engineering, Design, Materials, Civil and Building Engineering, Chemistry, Mechanical and Manufacturing, and Systems.

The new toilet uses an autothermic, hydrothermal carbonising process to produce material that is safe to handle and could be used for soil conditioner. In parallel with our engineering development we are designing the system to suppress smells and provide users with a positive and comfortable experience. The system is designed to be self-sufficient in terms of energy input, is cost efficient and will work for a single family or community. Please see the following link for more information: www.lboro.ac.uk/service/publicity/news-r...reinvent_toilet.html

Project duration:

The work on RTTC Round 1 started in April 2011, and following international competition, Loughborough University won another grant for the second phase to further develop the prototype of the Reinvented Toilet. The current end date is January 2014.

Edit on 15 Feb 2016 by moderator EvM: There was a third phase of funding from 28.03.2014 to 31.03.2016 with USD 3,344,569 under the grant name "RTTC - Phase III - Field-testing and development of design and specifications", see here in BMGF grant database.

Further reading:
We presented the project at the Faecal Sludge Management Conference in November 2012. The papers are available at the following links:
www.susana.org/en/resources/library/details/1786

Primary contact for the project: Professor M Sohail (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)


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Notes by moderator (EvM):

Video of the presentation by Simon Martin at the FSM2 Conference about this project:



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

Related thread on this forum (about odour issues from waterless urinals):
forum.susana.org/forum/categories/34-uri...riences-odour-issues

Project leader's affiliation:
Professor M. Sohail (Khan)
Civil and Building Engineering
Loughborough University
UK
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  • KimAndersson
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Re: Reinvent the Toilet@lboro - Hydrothermal Carbonization

Dear Sohail,
Thanks for your posting and for sharing information on your project, and also for the links to more reading on your research.

In the paper you presented at the Faecal Sludge Management Conference in Nov 2012, you mentioned that you were entering a phase where you will develop a full-scale toilet prototype to test based on the hydrothermal carbonization (HTC) process. Have you been able to develop this prototype, and if so, how is the initial testing going? You also mention that you had some challenges in front of you, one being the adaption of the system to a single household level, and another, achieving self-sufficiency from an energy point of view. Have you been able to make progress in relation to these challenges? I am also curios about the liquid residue that are resulting from your process. According to your paper, this liquid will first receive a treatment in an anaerobic digester before it safely can be disposed of. Will you be able to achieve this anaerobic digestion for a single household or are you also considering other configurations of your system? Another issue, is the nutrient content in the waste streams, how are you dealing with these to avoid nutrient leakage?

Best regards,
Kim Andersson

Kim Andersson
Stockholm Environment Institute
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Re: Reinvent the Toilet@lboro - Hydrothermal Carbonization and Odour Issues: User perceptions and experiences

Dear Kim, Many thanks for your email as well as for your interest in the work we are doing at Loughborough University. Apologies for not getting back to you sooner. I work with Sohail and am responding on behalf of the team. As you say, we are currently developing the prototype, whilst we have some interesting initial findings we will be in a better position to update you on the details shortly. I will get back in touch with more information soon.
Best regards Sue

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Note by moderators: This post was made by a former user with the login name Sue who is no longer a member of this discussion forum.
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Re: Reinvent the Toilet@lboro - Hydrothermal Carbonization and Odour Issues: User perceptions and experiences

Dear Sue,
Thanks for your reply. I'm looking forward to learn more about your project progress and findings.

Best regards,
Kim

Kim Andersson
Stockholm Environment Institute
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  • arno
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Re: Reinvent the Toilet@lboro - Hydrothermal Carbonization and Odour Issues: User perceptions and experiences

For anyone wishing to know more about the BMGF research project with the title “Reinvent the Toilet@lboro: Using Hydrothermal Carbonization – or simply pressure cooking - to manage faecal sludge” we now have 3 video clips that I did with Elisabeth von Muench at the Reinvent the Toilet Fair in Delhi in March:

Paul Mackereth: "Reinvented toilet @lboro" - User interface (Loughborough University, UK), Part 1:



Andrew Wheatley: "Reinvented toilet @lboro" - processing (Loughborough University, UK), interview:



Andrew Wheatley: "Reinvented toilet @lboro" - processing (Loughborough University, UK), explanation of their exhibit:



The Loughborough team is led by Professor Sohail who can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Professor Sohail wanted us to add the following: The project is in its development stage and the technology in the video should not be copied by inexperienced people; accidents could occur with the high pressure and temperature process.

A few comments on this technology and similar “high tech” treatment systems, if I may: Some of you might say this sort of advanced technology can’t be realistic, especially for developing countries. But it is the principle and mechanisms in these projects that are of relevance and where the breakthroughs are found. Building a single unit with this sort of equipment doesn’t seem financially competitive, but even this type of system seems to be meeting the BMGF criteria if it can run for say 25 years and there are several families connected. Such systems can also be used in hospitals to treat entire wards where patients are on heavy drugs. The principle of pressure and heat will also be useful to take all food and faeces from apartment blocks and hotels that are near sensitive coastal zones or are not allowed to install septic tanks or are not connected to sewer grids.

As far as slums are concerned this approach will probably never be affordable at least during our lifetime. But once oil is no longer affordable, food wastes will become prime fuel sources and such systems will pay for themselves, much like biogas systems do today.

Regards,
Arno

P.S. Attached in a pdf file (see attachment at the end of this post) are photos from this exhibit at the fair, taken by Sue Cavill and provided by Prof. Sohail.
See also page 59 in the Technical Guide for more information on this project:
susana.org/lang-en/library/library?view=...eitem&type=2&id=2001

And three more photos here for people who cannot view Youtube movies:






Arno Rosemarin PhD
Stockholm Environment Institute
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
www.sei.org
www.ecosanres.org
Current project affiliation: www.susana.org/en/resources/projects/details/127

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  • Doulaye
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Re: Using hydrothermal carbonization – or simply pressure cooking – to manage faecal sludge (Loughborough University, UK)

Dear Arno,
Good points in your note above. However, you will see these systems operating in slums earlier than you can imagine! It is the wrong debate to pick one systems and try to make it fit for all categories of customers. This is what has slowed down progress in sanitation so far and led us to this big failure! For the last decades, we would convene to debate what how cheap the latrines should be so that we can serve a large number. If had focus our efforts on selling services, we would be more successful as a community today. I visited several families who bought a latrine for $50-75 but have to pay $100/150 per year to maintain them!!!!!

Our approach, under the reinvent the toilet program, is to put on the market the next generation of technologies that will allow services providers to commercialize solutions (technology and services) that people want to buy and use. Some of these toilets you saw at the Fair are cheaper than Satellite TV connection and current septic tanks!

We will be successful, as a professional community, if we all focus the discussion on quality and affordable service provision and how to organization sanitation service delivery as a utility service! SuSanA can help with this if thematic groups can propose clear tools that drive action. For example defining requirements for service provision, standards, and developing template tender documents which allow entrepreneurs to compete for service delivery. I saw several industries in India with great toilet solutions, but no market penetration opportunity for them. It’s the case in Kenya, South Africa and many other places. Our current approach to promote sanitation is simply wrong. People don’t have toilets, industries are designing great solutions, but don’t have market to sell them! Why? Because we are not able to structure properly an industrial organization for better and competitive services? The need is more than urgent! There are great examples that can inspire all of us. The Kenya Water Services trust Fund, The Sanitation Utility – ONAS – Senegal or examples from, WSUP, WfP South Africa through work funded by WRC that demonstrate that we have enough evidence today to organize sanitation service delivery as a utility service, that works for all, Girls, Women, disables, poor, Schools. Several Donors (WB, ADB, AfDB) and investors have shown interest to support this emerging industry.

It is time for action. I mean concrete and measurable action so that we can solve this in your lifetime :)! I challenge you and the SuSanA community to take on this bet and you will be surprised to see that all these Industries have viable solutions. We need a new approach to make significant impact on the lives of billion people. Let’s stop the debate on what technology is best (Investors, customers and entrepreneurs choices will drive this), and focus our attention on defining the right market structure for affordable utility services for slums and all other communities. Today, we have a viable range of industries ready to fill the gap if the market is structured for them! Hope you and SuSanA will contribute to this.

Doulaye
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Re: Using hydrothermal carbonization – or simply pressure cooking – to manage faecal sludge (Loughborough University, UK)

Hi Doulaye
I quite agree with what you have written. Unlike water provision with a well established demand profile sanitation is a complex with behaviour and taboo at its foundation and for the market to be able to develop in poor countries requires an understanding of what these people are experiencing on a daily basis. Surely a personal toilet would be great to have and all humans aspire to this surely. But toilets will never be the top priority if food, clothing, housing, power, lighting, drainage and transportation are not solved. Add to this education, training and livelihoods as prime stepping stones and sanitation and solid waste for that matter will remain on the waiting list for local action plans. So my message is to integrate sanitation into the mosaic of development and to present it in terms of choices based on functionality - including the entire chain from user interface (the toilet) to storage, transportation, treatment, reuse and disposal. That means the sanitation system needs to be communicated and marketed and the net result is what will be worth investing in. Development is a struggle and a lot of this integration starts at home, at school and at the local level where the system can be seen functioning, providing health and environmental protection.

A question worth asking however is whether sanitation has actually been a market success in the developed world. Maybe on paper it has through the fee structures and presence of water utilities. But among the users especially in cities, this is a service no one really sees on a daily basis nor understands. And when it fails to function properly, we are ill-prepared and highly vulnerable. This says to me that to build resilience in this sector will require much more communication from the ground up and a declaration of performance much like other business and service sectors provide. It's time to take sanitation out of the closet on a global level. Without this we will continue to see 2.5 billion without proper sanitation, 4.2 billion without functional sanitation systems (including treatment), the 1-2 billion with helminth worms, the 1 million child deaths, the girls quitting school at puberty, etc, etc. And there is so much ignorance to deal with in the North and the South. There's no dialogue, no learning.

This is why I congratulate BMGF for taking on this challenge in a multi-faceted matter to get this, the last chapter in human development on track. Let's all get involved and get this chapter right.
--Arno Rosemarin/SEI

Arno Rosemarin PhD
Stockholm Environment Institute
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
www.sei.org
www.ecosanres.org
Current project affiliation: www.susana.org/en/resources/projects/details/127
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