Re-Inventing the Toilet Maintenance System
Lack of proper sanitation contributes to millions of deaths every year in developing countries. Even the best sanitation systems become useless if it breaks down and no one in the area knows how to fix them. This problem is now being addressed by the inventors of the solar-powered toilet, a unit developed by a team led by Michael Hoffman at Caltech.
The toilet integrates an electro-chemical reactor to treat waste water, providing a safe and inexpensive way to dispose off human waste. The engineers are working to improve its design and are field-testing several prototypes at university and public park settings in India and China. After running into several maintenance issues, they now believe they have found a solution through their project named ‘Seva’. The Seva team realized that because the solar toilet and other sanitation systems like it are relatively simple, inexpensive sensors could be used to monitor the status of those systems’ parts. Combining that insight with the knowledge that more than three-quarters of the world’s people have access to a mobile phone, the team decided to design a self-diagnosing maintenance system for sanitation solutions that could alert designated local operators of a malfunction via cell phone message. They have already determined which sensors are needed to identify the different ways the toilet system can fail. They expect to start testing sometime next winter, beginning on campus with a solar toilet housed in a shipping container.
It is a mind numbing fact that an estimated 4.5 billion people in the developing world lack access to adequate sanitation facilities. How can we encourage and empower local communities to install, maintain and repair their own sanitation technologies?
Contact: Deborah at 626.395.3227 (US)
Spotted by: Bikram Palikhey