Science is consistently working to develop new technologies to make life easier. One less glamorous area that is studied is the topic of disposing of human waste. Researchers at the University of South Florida have risen to the task and developed technology that can collect human waste and convert it to clean energy.
The university created the NEWgenerator inside of something called a Community Ablution Block, or CAB, which is a product from South Africa. The CAB is essentially a shipping container that contains toilet and bathing facilities. These containers are used in areas of the world where residents don’t have access to indoor plumbing, or where sewer facilities are sub-par.
USF has combined the CABs with their NEWgenerator, which has now eliminated the need for a pre-existing sewer system. Now, the wastewater is processed by the generator to convert organic waste into a biogas. That biogas is then used to power the generator itself. This means that the NEWgenerator can not only be deployed in communities with no sewer systems, but also without any electricity grids whatsoever.
Generating electricity isn’t the only process that the NEWgenerator is capable of. It can also disinfect the wastewater through a number of steps. First, bacteria and viruses are removed after the water passes through a special membrane. The remaining water is then treated with chlorine, the final product being used to flush toilets and irrigate the gardens in the same communities using the CABs.
Those same gardens can be fertilized with some of the solid waste that’s processed by the NEWgenerator. That continuous source of nitrogen and phosphorous-rich fertilizer will help the income of those same communities, as they’ll hopefully be able to sell more crops.
Official field testing is set to begin next year in the community of Durban, South Africa, with two units being deployed to service approximately 1,100 residents. USF is receiving additional funding from the Melinda and Bill Gates foundation. Hopefully, the South Africa deployment will prove successful and the NEWgenerator can be utilized in many more areas around the world that could benefit from the technology.