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Solar-Powered Toilet Torches Waste For Public Health

Soulskill posted about 5 months ago | from the not-just-for-something-and-grins dept.

Earth 126

Daniel_Stuckey writes "With funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's Reinvent the Toilet challenge, [a] team has developed a toilet that uses concentrated solar power to scorch and disinfect human waste, turning feces into a useful byproduct called biochar ... a sanitary charcoal material that is good for soils and agriculture. By converting solid waste to biochar (liquid waste is diverted elsewhere, as it's easier to deal with), the toilet thus allows for sanitary waste disposal without huge infrastructure investments. The toilet itself, called the Sol-Char, is a fascinating bit of engineering. In order to sanitize waste without the help of massive treatment facilities, Linden's team instead designed the toilet to scorch waste in a chamber heated by fiber optic cables that pipe in heat from solar collectors on the toilet's roof. 'A solar concentrator has all this light focused in on one centimeter. It'd be fine if we could bring everyone's fecal waste up to that one point, like burning it with a magnifying glass,' Linden said. 'But that's not practical, so we were thinking of other ways to concentrate that light.'"

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Aim? (1)

TWX (665546) | about 5 months ago | (#46496929)

Make the system detect something as it descends, and then hit it with the light/heat?

Just don't mis-aim or focus up too high...

Charred waste (2)

fyngyrz (762201) | about 5 months ago | (#46497071)

No shit?

Re:Charred waste (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46497355)

Cauterized anus. Might solve goatse's problem

Re:Charred waste (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46497395)

not just no shit, dangly bits night get in the way too!

Wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46496975)

Someone spent way too much time with the magnifying glass...

Re:Wow (1)

davester666 (731373) | about 5 months ago | (#46499405)

And not enough time around an outhouse in the afternoon. The smell of warm waste, is, well, extremely undesirable.

Bill Gates - changing people's lifes for the best! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46496977)

Bill Gates, with Windows OS, Office suite, and other software -and hardware- products changed the lifes of many people for the best - with the money people gave him for his products he continues to change the lifes of more people for the best.
I respect this Man and i wish him the best - he deserves it.
(haters gonna hate...)

Re:Bill Gates - changing people's lifes for the be (4, Insightful)

anubi (640541) | about 5 months ago | (#46497237)

Agreed.

When some people accumulate enough wealth, they become empowered enough to make a difference in the history of man. Some ( like Gates ) are using their resources in a way which will benefit humanity, others will go out and buy all the rental property they can.

I am hoping so badly ( hoping, mind you, not really anticipating ) that our lawmakers in Congress will see and craft tax law to encourage the kind of stuff Gates is doing and closing all of these tax advantages of simply rent-seeking and financial churning.

If Gates gets favorable tax treatments for doing this kind of stuff, it only empowers him to do more similar things as well as lead others to use the power of their wealth in a similar manner.

If there is one thing Gates has demonstrated over and over, he does have the leadership, organizational, and business skills to do it.

I know I have left lots of anti-Microsoft rants here: I feel hypocritical in posting this. Those rants were my venting my frustration as an older guy about software becoming so un-necessarily complex with all these special interest groups trying to get their proprietary add-ons adopted into Windows that pranksters have started having a heyday leaving a mess in everyone's machine. I was rooting for a very simple but thoroughly understood OS that was pretty damned bulletproof. My feeling was if pranksters thought setting people's fancy little outhouses on fire, then what I wanted was a simple one made out of cinder block.

Re:Bill Gates - changing people's lifes for the be (1)

sumdumass (711423) | about 5 months ago | (#46497665)

I am hoping so badly ( hoping, mind you, not really anticipating ) that our lawmakers in Congress will see and craft tax law to encourage the kind of stuff Gates is doing and closing all of these tax advantages of simply rent-seeking and financial churning.

Gates is already using tax law that lawmakers in congress put to work years and years ago specifically for this type of thing.

It's called a foundation and it is a non profit that people can funnel portions of their income into specifically for these purposes. Better yet, it isolates or shelters some of their wealth from threats they personally suffer or could suffer similar to how corporations isolate share holders except the wealth can no longer be used to their personal benefit. And as a registered nonprofit, the income and donations do not get taxed or taxed at reduced rates (see commercial non profits which is a commercial enterprise designed to sustain and benefit a charity) plus the advantage of certain contributions having tax benefits.

Re:Bill Gates - changing people's lifes for the be (1, Flamebait)

distilate (1037896) | about 5 months ago | (#46497435)

No he's just doing a Alfred nobel, trying to make up for his fuckups! cough windows cough

Re:Bill Gates - changing people's lifes for the be (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46497901)

Really? Whenever I think about Bill Gates, the first thing I think of is the stench of burning shit.

Re:Bill Gates - changing people's lifes for the be (4, Interesting)

Jmc23 (2353706) | about 5 months ago | (#46498291)

yeah, because moving away from user built composting toilets with natural materials that can be maintained by a person with 1 hour of training and moving towards complex systems that depend on the latest technology, labs to manufacture and engineers to maintain is good?

Re:Bill Gates - changing people's lifes for the be (3, Informative)

Will.Woodhull (1038600) | about 5 months ago | (#46499211)

In all fairness, though, traditional composting toilets can't handle the volume produced in urban settings. They may be great for homes, but not so much for apartment housing, dormitories, airport terminals, etc. Biochar toilets can be adapted to meet at least some of these needs.

Another point: biochar acts something like a catalyst to improve soil but is not consumed in the process. The carbon is effectively sequestered for thousands of years, but biocharred enriched soils are better at appropriate release of moisture and nutrients while also diluting many soil toxins.

This might seem like the magic cure-all to all post-modern ills, but it isn't all blue sky hype. Each gram of biochar adds the surface area of a tennis court to the soil; a little bit of it goes a long way.

One last point: composting toilets only work well if they are properly managed. I had the misfortune of having a country neighbor for several years who was learning how to manage her composting toilet, and there were definitely episodes of odor problems.

UhOh! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46496995)

I've got my balls to the wall man!
Balls - to - the - wall

Ferguson (4, Funny)

LookIntoTheFuture (3480731) | about 5 months ago | (#46497003)

We need to think of sanitation as a business opportunity, and turn the toilet into a status symbol.

AL (LOOKS UPWARD) Oh, dad. Look. I'm sitting on a Ferguson of my own. Just like you knew I would.

PEGGY (BEAT) Remember this at the trial, kids.

India and Africa's primitive masses (-1, Flamebait)

flyingfsck (986395) | about 5 months ago | (#46497207)

The first problem is that the vast majority of people in India and Africa are too stupid/lazy to even dig simple long drop latrines. They are also in the habit of breaking/stealing *anything*. How on earth will you get this kind of useless primitives to build and maintain these complicated sterilizing latrines?

Re:India and Africa's primitive masses (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46497251)

The first problem is that the vast majority of people in India and Africa are too stupid/lazy to even dig simple long drop latrines.

As opposed to the smart/dilligent westerners who all dig their own latrines?

Re:India and Africa's primitive masses (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46497267)

There should be an extra large turd burner for racist turds.

For all the reasons I've disliked bill gates in th (1)

joeflies (529536) | about 5 months ago | (#46497061)

It all seems trivial if he is successful building this. I suppose it's true that applying tech to poop isn't something a lot of people are researching.

So, how does it smell? (1, Interesting)

phayes (202222) | about 5 months ago | (#46497099)

There are multiple reasons we pipe sewage away from where we live to be treated and public health isn't people's major motivator. It's smell.

Even in societies without piping people were digging latrines and putting outhouses way back at the other side of the garden to contain/diminish the odor.

By scorching feces to sterilize it, it is in effect gasifying it. it's self evident that this system will stink far over and beyond what an outhouse would. Thus while geeky enough to make /.'s front page on a slow Sunday, I doubt this system will see any success.

Re:So, how does it smell? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46497177)

For places without sewage plumbing but still not isolated enough that a hole in the ground is sufficient and where separation+infiltration is not viable either, there are mulching toilets, but in those you still need to change not too pleasant buckets once in a while. But there are also incinerating toilets using either gas (propane) or electricity, and they're quite OK. All that is left is a small can of ash, that can be used in the garden. This solar toilet looks to be just another way of providing the heat in such a toilet.

Re:So, how does it smell? (3, Informative)

Will.Woodhull (1038600) | about 5 months ago | (#46499309)

Well, yes, but with this difference: incineration pumps all the carbon in the poop into the atmosphere. Biochar production uses the heat to run a pyrolytic, anaerobic reaction where a good portion of the carbon is turned to charcoal and sequestered away for several thousand years. Since the charcoal retains the microscopic physical structures of cell walls, etc, it also has some very good soil building qualities, such as retaining fertilizers for slow release and increasing the moisture holding capability of the soil.

Re:So, how does it smell? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46497181)

Eh no.
Look up pyrolysis. Instead of simmering for hours in tropical heat, the poo will be subject to pyrolysis in mere minutes in a low oxygen environment. Gases produced will be mainly syngas, which is odourless.

Re: So, how does it smell? (4, Interesting)

shitzu (931108) | about 5 months ago | (#46497197)

Also - it is crazy complicated. I have a "bio" outhouse in my summer house that is in essence just a plastic container. You fill the bottom and a filtering compartment with sawdust. Liquids go through sawdust and seep under a bush. Every time you take a dump you throw a bit of sawdust on it. It does not smell (actually, as i use juniper sawdust, it smells quite pleasantly like gin). The end result i put under another bush in autumn and use as a fertilizer next spring. Why would i use a complex system of solar power and fiber and lord knows how many dollars to achieve the same end result?

Re: So, how does it smell? (4, Insightful)

sumdumass (711423) | about 5 months ago | (#46497213)

Why would you used a complex system like this? Because you are not at your summer house and instead in Haiti right after the earth quake where they can bring a bunch of these things in easily and have a more sanitary situation then waiting a year for it to decompose properly. Now exchange Haiti with any other city and any other disaster and you won't have to worry about your kids picking berries and foraging for food from the bush your neighbor shits under.

Re: So, how does it smell? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46497221)

you won't have to worry about your kids picking berries and foraging for food from the bush your neighbor shits under

People actually worry about this (no pun intended) shit?

Now I understand why modern society seems absurd.

Re: So, how does it smell? (2)

sumdumass (711423) | about 5 months ago | (#46497255)

Yes they worry about it, and for good reason.
http://www.pbs.org/newshour/ru... [pbs.org]

Cholera, typhoid, shigellosis, Ecoli, are just a few of the major medical problems you can get from poor sanitary conditions and if untreated which may be difficult in times of a disaster, you could die from it.

I'm not aware of how that might be absurd.. Unless I misunderstood the meaning of your post.

Re: So, how does it smell? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46497379)

And if I recall from 4th grade history (ages ago...), this was one of the biggest health hazards of the medieval times.

Re: So, how does it smell? (1)

Blaskowicz (634489) | about 5 months ago | (#46498605)

And maybe for similar reasons that eating human meat is dangerous, human shit is the most toxic to us. Even plants grown for human consumption and fertilized with human shit can be a bad idea.

Not long ago I think I learnt on slashdot comments that you can grow plants for animal feed with human shit, and then grow plants for human feed with the animal shit. I found that to be neat. If you have hens you will have eggs as well in the process.

I'm getting trouble to find computer parts and video games etc. marvelous and amazing these days, and biologocial/biochemical processes, earth etc. feel the more amazing to me.

Re: So, how does it smell? (0)

phayes (202222) | about 5 months ago | (#46497433)

So, it is your position that BillG & co came up with this system for quick deployment in disaster zones and not as a long term solution? That explains why they push biochar as such a major benefit. After all, everyone needs biochar right after a major disaster, right?

Note that I recognise the sanitary advantages, but just doubt that unless they make is smell less than I fear, it will not be widely deployed. Health advantages are insufficient. People know that riding a motorcycle or a scooter without a helmet/gloves/jacket/adapted footwear is a major health hasard. Yet every year I see the idiots in short sleeves & flip flops tooling around.

Re: So, how does it smell? (1)

sumdumass (711423) | about 5 months ago | (#46497703)

So, it is your position that BillG & co came up with this system for quick deployment in disaster zones and not as a long term solution? That explains why they push biochar as such a major benefit.

I believe this is one of the reasons or uses behind it. I'm sure it would also be put into use in areas that electricity or power of some sort is difficult and expensive to come by. Remote villages might be one, lands on or near certain habitats that need protection for whatever reasons might be another.

After all, everyone needs biochar right after a major disaster, right?

why would they need biochar after a disaster? What they need is a way to deal with sanitation that isn't going to require a year or more before it can be safely handled by humans without needing specialized equipment or knowledge in order to do it safely. I know what you are thinking, compost is safe, well that's if the organic components are in a compatible proportion and the compost is allowed to properly cultivate, otherwise, it will be a breading ground for illnesses.

Note that I recognise the sanitary advantages, but just doubt that unless they make is smell less than I fear, it will not be widely deployed.

I don't see it being a community center like they are wishing for. And I do think it will smell quite horrid. I shirk at the thought of a bathroom being a public hang out anyways, let alone something like this. But if put out of the way, it would be useful.

People know that riding a motorcycle or a scooter without a helmet/gloves/jacket/adapted footwear is a major health hasard. Yet every year I see the idiots in short sleeves & flip flops tooling around.

Well, I ride without a helmet all the time. It's only a hazard if have an accident and a helmet can introduce it's own set of hazards too. That being said, I specifically choose to not wear a helmet and if I wreck, I am endangering only my life. It's a bit different if you do something and endanger or harm someone else. So going without good sanitation is a bit more like driving drunk where if you screw up, you can involve more then yourself. Others don't like that concept unless they are impaired or drunk themselves so they will tend to mitigate those risks if it is available and expect others to also. That's why almost every country and political subdivision in the world has laws against driving drunk where some have and some do not have laws about riding motorcycles without a helmet.

Re: So, how does it smell? (1)

phayes (202222) | about 5 months ago | (#46498141)

So, it is your position that BillG & co came up with this system for quick deployment in disaster zones and not as a long term solution? That explains why they push biochar as such a major benefit.

I believe this is one of the reasons or uses behind it. I'm sure it would also be put into use in areas that electricity or power of some sort is difficult and expensive to come by. Remote villages might be one, lands on or near certain habitats that need protection for whatever reasons might be another.

Sorry, you missed the sarcasm. My overly subtle point was that this solar crap cooker isn't designed for disaster relief (pun intended) because one of it's major selling points, biochar is close to irrelevant in that context. In other words, you don't sell disease prevention by selling long term fertiliser benefits. Another point being that disaster relief doesn't reliably coincide with near constant sunshine.

On motorcycle protection: Given the trauma causes in 2&3 wheel vehicle accidents, wearing a helmet is the most intelligent thing you can do. I'd personally feel more naked without a helmet & track style protective gear than with a helmet and not a stitch. Wearing one turned a minor accident into something that I walked away from instead of a fatality.

V+ as we riders in France sign off from one to another

Re: So, how does it smell? (1)

sumdumass (711423) | about 5 months ago | (#46498601)

Sorry, you missed the sarcasm. My overly subtle point was that this solar crap cooker isn't designed for disaster relief (pun intended) because one of it's major selling points, biochar is close to irrelevant in that context. In other words, you don't sell disease prevention by selling long term fertiliser benefits. Another point being that disaster relief doesn't reliably coincide with near constant sunshine.

You are right, I missed your sarcasm but as I said before, long term fertilizer benefits is nothing more then safe handling of the byproduct. If you compost, you have raw sewage to deal with and disease. With this, you end up with something that can be stored and used or sold to aid in the relief.

On motorcycle protection: Given the trauma causes in 2&3 wheel vehicle accidents, wearing a helmet is the most intelligent thing you can do. I'd personally feel more naked without a helmet & track style protective gear than with a helmet and not a stitch. Wearing one turned a minor accident into something that I walked away from instead of a fatality.

Most people will go their entire life without a single accident on a 2or3 wheeler (3wheelers are actually outlawed here unless you had one from before they were outlawed). A large percentage of those who will, will be little more then dropping the bike at slow speeds. That being said, I agree that a helmet will save lives and mitigate trauma damage, it is just that I was raised not needing to wear one and I'm simply not comfortable wearing one. I ride in jeans, every once in a while a leather jacket, and generally no helmet. Done it for over 30 years, even on the trails as a kid. I like the wind in my hair while cruising. I know the dangers, I just view it like when I skydived, an acceptable risk to get the expected enjoyment.

The guys I ride with don't really have a sign off, but V+

Re: So, how does it smell? (1)

Blaskowicz (634489) | about 5 months ago | (#46498723)

Hell as a bicycle rider I once suffered not wearing a helmet. I must fave fell from a crack in the ground or stupid inattention, but I can't know as I suffered a very minor amesia from the shock. It was at about 30 kph (about 20 mph) or maybe a bit less and that is a violent shock already, imagine running as fast as you can into a wall.. So with more speed, colliding your head with the ground will probably make you a cripple for life or kill you either instantly or slowly.

It was in the night, and there were no cars thanksfully. Wearing a helmet on bicycle is a good idea, on home-to-work commutes. It's where you know everything by rote and pay the less attention (and maybe lack sleep etc.) so it's the most dangerous ride.

Re: So, how does it smell? (2)

Blaskowicz (634489) | about 5 months ago | (#46498755)

Well, I ride without a helmet all the time. It's only a hazard if have an accident and a helmet can introduce it's own set of hazards too. That being said, I specifically choose to not wear a helmet and if I wreck, I am endangering only my life.

If you injure yourself you will not show up to work, and society at large will have to pay for your medical surgery and expenses if you're not dead, possibly for years or the rest of your life. Thus most developed countries ban the use of motorbikes without helmet.

Re: So, how does it smell? (1)

sumdumass (711423) | about 5 months ago | (#46499091)

I'm so sick of that BS. If I injure myself, my insurance will kick in and society will not foot any bills. And before you claim insurance is society paying, it is not as the actuaries already charged me a rate for expected claims coverage.

Non free countries force riders to wear helmets. I happen to live in a somewhat free country. You can keep your non free country that tells you what you can and cannot do based around someone's irrational fear of having to provide some medical coverage or whatever. When are those civilized country going to force you to wear protect during casual sex because it might cost society money with maternity leave and delivery fees. That entire line is BS and should never be spouted by anyone intelligent who isn't a greedy bastard more concerned with what they might have to share the cost of then people's freedoms and rights..

Re: So, how does it smell? (1)

Blaskowicz (634489) | about 5 months ago | (#46499461)

Even in the US you will eventually end up on Social Security or Medicaid once you're a destitute cripple.
Um.. whatever country you are from, I guess you're insured because it was mandated by law, hahaha.

Re: So, how does it smell? (2)

Will.Woodhull (1038600) | about 5 months ago | (#46499381)

As pointed out several times already, there would be no odor from biochar production: what would produce the odors is burned as part of the process.

Not emphasized, but of great importance, is that biochar sequesters carbon for thousands of years.

Also not emphasized, but also of great importance, biochar is a potent soil amendment. It can recover the health of soils depleted by monoculture farming practices, for instance.

Re: So, how does it smell? (2)

dasunt (249686) | about 5 months ago | (#46500783)

Sounds like something straight out of the humanure book [humanurehandbook.com] .

IIRC, the compost in a properly setup and maintained system will destroy pathogens, at least according to the tests the author did.

IMO, the technology/cost of this biochar system seems like it could, in most circumstances, be spent better elsewhere, since a humanure setup should cost less and be able to be built with mostly local materials.

Re:So, how does it smell? (1)

dargaud (518470) | about 5 months ago | (#46497399)

I was about to ask the same question. I shat for a year in a 'burner'. It took some practise and self control to get used to piss and shit separately. But also that shit-burner (a resistor in our case), stank to all hell. Normally the smoke would go outside in a chimney... Until it froze. Imagine having the smell of cooking shit all over the building. I had to rappel down the building in -65C temperatures to fix the chimney ! Complete story here [gdargaud.net] .

Re:So, how does it smell? (1)

Will.Woodhull (1038600) | about 5 months ago | (#46499481)

Biochar is produced through pyrolysis, not incineration. That's a very different, and odorless, technology. (Basically, you burn the smells as an integral part of the process.)

Re:So, how does it smell? (2)

gbjbaanb (229885) | about 5 months ago | (#46497929)

you'd be surprised at how old days had solved this problem. The real reason we pipe sewage away is for convenience. (toilets are sometimes called a "convenience" for a reason).

In the past you basically had a pit that you shat into. The trick then is to cover it with a layer of dry dirt. Try dryness is what's important. This soaks up the wetness of the turds and really converts it from a nasty smelly thing into.. well, basically dirt.

There was a programme on TV about what we did before water closets. It was surprising to me to see just how little dry dirt was required.

Anyway, back to this contraption - its another western technical solution to fundamental problems that don't need solving. What needs taking out to rural africa and other poor places is education. The reason you get diseases spreading out there is because people just shit in the street (seen it, different programme about squat toilets)(BTW these are the only 2 I've seen, I don't go hunting down TV about people pooping, just for the record :) ). I'm sure UV is a better disinfectant than a complicated (and relatively expensive) system of burning sorry turds, and I'm sure this system will be impractical in many places. Until you explain to people why disease spreads, they'll continue to shit in the street.

Re:So, how does it smell? (1)

Will.Woodhull (1038600) | about 5 months ago | (#46499241)

Biochar production from garden debris burns the gasses it produces; I would expect the same of a biochar toilet. It just makes sense: you have a source of ignition and the burning adds more heat to the pyrolysis process.

Re:For all the reasons I've disliked bill gates in (1)

sumdumass (711423) | about 5 months ago | (#46497109)

Well, I guess it will make it easier to display the at the stores. You know, when a kid gets potty trained and you are at the hardware store looking for something to fix your leaky faucet and turn to find Junior is looking for the TP and asking you to help wipe. Now all they need to do is stick it outside for a couple hours.

My question is, how will this smell. I've had the misfortune of having to pour diesel fuel on a pile of shit and burning it before and it wasn't a good experience. And that outhouse was chemically treated to keep the smell down too. I cannot imagine many people wanting to purposely hang out around them.

Re:For all the reasons I've disliked bill gates in (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about 5 months ago | (#46497569)

It all seems trivial if he is successful building this.

When he makes a public apology for funding SCO to try to destroy Linux . . . then I'll forgive him.

Although, I like his "Turd Torcher". He's taken the concept of "Fart Lighting" one step further. Other folks are trying to build "Smarter Cities". Gates is building "Smarter Shitters" . . .

Re:For all the reasons I've disliked bill gates in (1)

jafiwam (310805) | about 5 months ago | (#46497697)

It all seems trivial if he is successful building this. I suppose it's true that applying tech to poop isn't something a lot of people are researching.

It looks like the one key feature "how to get the poop hot enough" has some fundamental unworkable problems with it. The fiber optic gets cm square hot, not a big area (say, probably the size of a large stew pot) hot.

That means, he's just got a toilet with a light in it.

Those things are going to be huge, hard to build, and need lots of materials from somewhere.

Neat idea, but won't work. Industrialized countries with problems of "how do we make a trail side toilet work" may be able to use them though.

That's the best... (1)

MrKaos (858439) | about 5 months ago | (#46497085)

...shit invention I've seen for a long time.

Try a composting toilet... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46497089)

Why not compost the solid waste? That would be even better for soils and agriculture!

Re:Try a composting toilet... (2, Informative)

flyingfsck (986395) | about 5 months ago | (#46497201)

Composting human waste is fantastic for spreading human diseases all over the food supply...

Re:Try a composting toilet... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46497747)

No, NOT composting human waste (or doing it improperly) is a fantastic way to spread disease.

Some places I've stayed in the Philippines, the water comes from 5 meters down, and the shit is buried two down. . that gives 3 meters for shit to turn into water. . . it seems to work most of the time. . . when it doesn't it sure is a bitch though!

Re:Try a composting toilet... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46498817)

So? Plenty of non-food agriculture. Cotton, palm trees, bamboo, teak ... I'd avoid fodder, though. You might not eat that directly, but we already have enough problems with diseases in livestock.

Let's make things better (2)

jones_supa (887896) | about 5 months ago | (#46497101)

While Bill has a lot of resources to shove on these projects, he is also showing an example of "let's get up and go fix the world". I bet there are even more things to do and fix than the projects on which Gates is working on. It does not always even have to be based on some revolutionary technology or heaps of cash, there are possibilities that just have to be utilized. Let's do it.

Re:Let's make things better (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46497515)

For this he deserves a big kudos, just for trying at least. But also keep remembering to fix the world so the world can fix itself. Fixing the world is requires great skill and experience.

Captcha: welfare

Re:Let's make things better (1)

Jmc23 (2353706) | about 5 months ago | (#46498319)

Are you serious? He isn't solving anything. He's throwing impractical tech he's invested in at everything. It's microsoft all over again just more subtle.

Re:Let's make things better (1)

jones_supa (887896) | about 5 months ago | (#46498889)

Isn't solving anything?!

Re:Let's make things better (1)

Jmc23 (2353706) | about 5 months ago | (#46499049)

An advanced resource and knowledge intensive hi-tech 'solution' for a problem in areas that have neither and no money to pay for billy to make them one is not a solution. It's a money making grab.

Every single idea that was sustainable and easily built and maintained by locals was rejected!!

Re:Let's make things better (1)

jones_supa (887896) | about 5 months ago | (#46499167)

Any citations?

And if you have to poop at nighttime? (1)

John.Banister (1291556) | about 5 months ago | (#46497119)

When I look at the photo of this thing, a solar-electric panel with a battery and a heating element doesn't seem more resource hungry.

Re:And if you have to poop at nighttime? (1)

cbhacking (979169) | about 5 months ago | (#46497301)

Photovoltaics are incredibly inefficient. I don't know how much energy they're losing in the glass, but it's probably not 70%-80%.

Also, photovoltaics and batteries are expensive. A lens (doesn't have to be a really good lens) and some glass fibers is probably cheaper. That matters a *lot* for the uses they're envisioning.

Re:And if you have to poop at nighttime? (1)

Rich0 (548339) | about 5 months ago | (#46497973)

Seems like it would make more sense to come up with a way to store the waste and process it the next day.

Re:And if you have to poop at nighttime? (1)

John.Banister (1291556) | about 5 months ago | (#46498841)

That whole rig looks quite expensive. I wouldn't have commented if it didn't. The manufacturing process for the glass fibers used for this project had to be custom designed, and isn't going to have close to the economics of scale that photovoltaic manufacturing gets. I have a feeling that the biggest problem with supplying a waste treatment facility equipped with photovoltaics is the difficulty in forcing the poor people to use the electricity for processing waste.

Re:And if you have to poop at nighttime? (1)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | about 5 months ago | (#46497963)

Keep in mind this thing is meant to be used in places without plumbing... in a lot of cases that means there will also be a lack of replacement solar panels or the tools / skills to repair this setup. The problem of deploying 1st world stuff in 3rd world countries is not the stuff itself, but the expense and parts required to keep it in good repair. Simpler is better in this case.

Re:And if you have to poop at nighttime? (1)

John.Banister (1291556) | about 5 months ago | (#46498763)

A battery and a resistance heater aren't exactly limited to being 1st world technology these days. Solar electric panels may be challenging to manufacture, but the cost is no longer huge and continues to fall rapidly, and they are simple to install. Fiber optic cables used in a design where "packing them tightly without melting was a challenge that required a lot of direct work with materials manufacturers" aren't something that will be locally sourced in 3rd world countries either.

I never think of bald eagles as a symbol people paint. I think of them as those birds in Dutch Harbor that take over dumpster diving from the seagulls during wintertime.

Execution? (0)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 5 months ago | (#46497133)

Sounds like it could be turned into a humane alternative to lethal injection.

Re:Execution? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46497411)

Aim it at the right place and your pedofile or rapist is neutered!

Re:Execution? (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 5 months ago | (#46499383)

How long do you calculate it would take to kill someone by this method?

Some say nitrogen narcosis is the way to go.

Seriously? (2)

CodeBuster (516420) | about 5 months ago | (#46497135)

So here we have this commode that uses solar power to burn turds and they want people in developing nations to install and use them while the wealthy in the developed world continue flushing their porcelain thrones with gallons of fresh potable water? Perfect.

Re:Seriously? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46497217)

The infrastructure already exists in developed countries and it is trivial to roll out more. I get the impression that this solution is much cheaper and easier to roll out than an entire sewer system.

P.S: more and more houses are using recycled water for toilets (at least here in Australia they are)

I had to reread the title several times. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46497163)

I thought it was about solar powered flash lights being a waste for public health.

Re:I had to reread the title several times. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46497229)

Me too, and not just normal flash lights, toilet themed ones!

I misread the headline many times (0)

John Allsup (987) | about 5 months ago | (#46497281)

"Solar Powered Toilet Torches deemed a Waste to the Public Health budget" is one example misreading.

What about 'developing' countries? (LOL) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46497285)

Perhaps they could use this for those countries whose populations are so stupid they can't seem to even look after themselves properly... you know, the NON-WHITE ones, which white people apparently have to babysit for the rest of time...

Re:What about 'developing' countries? (LOL) (2, Informative)

cbhacking (979169) | about 5 months ago | (#46497303)

LOL indeed! Did you know that when your ancestors were still throwing their shit out the window every morning into the gutter, and took a bath maybe one or two times a year, the Muslim world (much of which is black, incidentally) had sewer systems and the closest thing to modern medicine available at the time? Yeah, I bet you didn't. History seems highly unlikely to be your strong point.

Re:What about 'developing' countries? (LOL) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46497831)

Rome. *cough*

Re:What about 'developing' countries? (LOL) (1)

Blaskowicz (634489) | about 5 months ago | (#46499201)

Even then in Rome you had to go to the public toilets, if you shat at home I guess that went out of the window or in a cesspit till someone comes and collect your, er, crap.

Re:What about 'developing' countries? (LOL) (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46497317)

You tell 'em; you nigger-hating son-of-a-bitch. Also, niggers. PPS: Horse cawks

Huh Huh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46497307)

I'd love to see B.G. choking down one of my doo-doo logs as a seal swallows a fish whole. ++Scatological Awesomeness

At last we have the proof (1, Funny)

Chocolate Teapot (639869) | about 5 months ago | (#46497331)

Bill Gates does indeed believe the sun shines out of his ass.

Requires Mass Production (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46497339)

A similar idea about lighting a house using fiber optics and collectors, combined with ordinary lights costs 10000-20000 EUR a pop. Mass production of optical components used in these and similar projects is needed.

Technology Disparity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46497487)

Why is it that every hut in every starving poor rural village in sub-saharan Africa can get 4G LTE-Advanced internet access and toilets that generate fertilizer, when here in affluent suburbia the best Internet I can manage is 1.5mbit DSL and the only way available for me to deal with my excrement is to store it in a big tank until it decomposes?

Re:Technology Disparity (1)

Jody Bruchon (3404363) | about 5 months ago | (#46497823)

Communications monopolies and building codes.

Re:Technology Disparity (1)

Blaskowicz (634489) | about 5 months ago | (#46499223)

Probably because these techs are cheaper and there were no previous infrastructure.
Also your internet connection would maybe be worse if everyone in your suburbia tore apart the copper stuff and switched to 4G, the spectrum would get all used up and you would bitch about why don't you have some form of wired internet access.

Interesting, but usefull? (1)

houghi (78078) | about 5 months ago | (#46497565)

When I just look at the image, this is not something I would imagine in some poor country where people can not even afford a bucket for their waste.
So not sure where they wuld put it.

who writes these headlines? (3, Funny)

cascadingstylesheet (140919) | about 5 months ago | (#46497575)

I was thinking, "why yes, 'solar powered toilet torches', whatever those might be, probably are a waste for public health ..."

Re:who writes these headlines? (1)

Donwulff (27374) | about 5 months ago | (#46497657)

That was the way I read it until I took in the summary, too. I was really disappointed when I grasped the real meaning, because the original reading made a whole lot more sense. At our summer villa we used to use solar-charged "lanterns" in the dark, such as going to the outhouse after sun had set. These are obviously "toilet torches". I'm not sure why you would even consider them for public health, but they'd probably end up doing very little for it, beyond preventing some campers or outhouse-users from stumbling in the dark, so I'd have to wholeheartedly concur with the headline. Still I'd consider it another headlining failure...

Re:who writes these headlines? (1)

cascadingstylesheet (140919) | about 5 months ago | (#46500013)

Exactly. I understand the need for brevity, but some of those connecting words and punctuation are pretty useful!

Burning Shit (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46497625)

All the Third World countries I've visited already smell like burning shit

Classic Over Thinking (2)

pubwvj (1045960) | about 5 months ago | (#46497683)

This is a classic example of too much technology, over thinking and wasting energy and other resources. It would be far, far better to compost the manure and urine creating value soil amendment.

Oh, wait, you say that isn't an option in the cities. Well, cities, yes, well, there's your problem.

Re:Classic Over Thinking (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46497839)

Well, cities, yes, well, there's your problem.

Yes, Walter, especially cities like Burlington and Montpelier. Does your family shit in the woods? Do you live without the use of electricity and factory-built power tools? Do you derive profit from city commerce? No? Then SHUT THE FUCK UP. Goddamned ignorant hypocrite.

Re:Classic Over Thinking (1)

pubwvj (1045960) | about 5 months ago | (#46498989)

I don't live in Burlington or Montpelier. I live out in the woods. We take care of our own crap. Time for you to STFU because you speak from ignorance. But you're so scared you can't even post with your own name, Anonymous Coward. You're the hypocrite.

Re:Classic Over Thinking (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 5 months ago | (#46498471)

Oh, wait, you say that isn't an option in the cities. Well, cities, yes, well, there's your problem.

Yes, yes it is. Not in the cities, but while living in the cities, via AIWPS [sdsu.edu] . The short explanation is that your shit is pumped into the bottom of ponds with a methane-capturing plastic liner protected from UV damage by virtue of being submerged. Eventually the ponds fill up and they're left to cook momentarily before being sludged out for compost. Heavy metals settle to the bottom and microbes destroy virtually all pathogens and most other contaminants.

Cities are not the problem. Where cities are located is the problem; there's no good reason for them to be in the same place as seaports any longer, for one. And what we choose to do with our technology is a massive problem as well. We have the technologies to solve the problems, but the current "solutions" to these problems are highly profitable. For a tiny slice of the population, of course. And they are maintaining the situation quite aptly.

Good luck getting a permit to use it (4, Interesting)

Jody Bruchon (3404363) | about 5 months ago | (#46497809)

All the eco-friendly stuff is ignored by building codes, so while this toilet might exist and have potential, good luck getting it to pass local codes for permitting. Whether you want to build a membrane structure (like a yurt) or use composting toilets or harvest rainwater or use solar for your electricity, you'll have a hard time getting any of it approved. If they're going to make toilets like this, they need to make an effort to get building codes across the country fixed to allow lower-footprint solutions. In many places it's even illegal to live with solar/wind alone and they will come after you if you're not connected to the power grid.

Re:Good luck getting a permit to use it (1)

kesuki (321456) | about 5 months ago | (#46499703)

the whole point of the toilet is that it gets rid of waste with 0 water usage. in many regions water is scarce and what little there is is used for drinking water. this is not a kit for people with septic or city sewer, as their water usage is predicted already, with logistics.

as for off the grid living you can blame congress for that. they passed laws so that 99% of the population has to be on grid and with telephone service... as a 'basic' human right. at least that was their logic when they passed the laws.

When all you have is a hammer... (1)

Jmc23 (2353706) | about 5 months ago | (#46498401)

Fiber optics? Seriously? Way to make the poor and unfortunate forever dependent on you.

If for some reason you want pyrolysis instead of composting why not design a solution that people can build themselves. Say, a parabolic trough collector focusing on oil filled piping to heat the fecal matter. Such collectors built out of aluminum foil have been shown to be able to get temperature above 400f.

oh wait, but then Bill and his cronies wouldn't be able to get rich.

On a side note, I'll definitely try some experimental designs in nica now especially since I have to make collectors anyways for the solar kitchen. I was worried about containment size required for a composting toilet to accomodate large groups of people. Only having to deal with days worth instead of months worth would be a boon. Have to test out whether the biochar is as effective a soil supplement as the compost as well.

That's gotta smell wonderful.... (1)

Ellis D. Tripp (755736) | about 5 months ago | (#46498459)

especially if you have a whole bunch of these toilets in one location.

The solar power thing is neat, but an incinerating toilet is nothing new. Have seen them at remote locations like mountaintop transmitter shacks, etc, where there is no water or sewer service available:

http://incinolet.com/ [incinolet.com]

https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

And yes, they STINK.

Re:That's gotta smell wonderful.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46500895)

I once took my children to visit the municipal sewage treatment plant as part of our home-schooling. They showed us sheets of what looked like rough cardboard, were sterile and had no odor. I don't remember the process they were experimenting with to make these, other than it did involve a solar-based process. The idea was to sell them to farms for fertilizer, but this wasn't allowed by the government, so they ended up having to grind them back up and insert them back into the "normal" sewage treatment process. This was nearly 40 years ago.

it's all about efficiency (1)

cats-paw (34890) | about 5 months ago | (#46498709)

nature. _extremely_ efficient.

human. _extremely_ inefficient.

that's a problem when there are 7 billion extremely inefficient humans.

Put it where the Sun don't shime (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46498731)

No need for a toilet at all, just a high powered enema and you're done.

Very useful purpose (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46499023)

Here is a much more reasonable explanation of it's usage in 3rd world countries.
http://www.rti.org/newsroom/news.cfm?obj=66147A01-A5A7-2842-B51FF79A5B7A91A4

Basically, you can take one, drop it anywhere without ANY infrastructure and you have a safe waste management system. It's a huge thing since most of the world doesn't dispose of their waste safely resulting in disease etc.

Thanks Bill another pile of shit! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46499373)

1 cm of light, pounds of shit, it's Windows all over again!

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