Researchers Receive $100,000 Grant to Turn Human Feces Into Energy

Associate professors at the University of Calgary Schulich School of Engineering, Ian Gates andMichael Kallos, won a $100,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Grand Challenges Explorations initiative to help them produce electricity, fertilizer, heat, methane gas and purified water from human feces.

Kallos says the technology the pair are using isn’t new, but it hasn’t been used in an integrated way as of yet, and the researchers aim to design a more efficient process where the proposed technology “would provide an effective way to dispose of human fecal matter and urine by consuming them in the production of useful products.” The method on which the researchers are working can be described as a portable toilet — small units with built-in reaction chambers.

On top of working on a way to help eliminate energy issues (assuming humans still, you know, eat things), the researchers also hope their process leads to better sanitation practices. Regional manager for nongovernmental organization Samaritan’s Purse — one that runs health, hygiene and programs — Bruce Piercey says Gates and Kallos’ research has great potential to help people without sanitation systems:

“Obviously there is water in human waste and it could be retrieved, but the main benefit would be to protect groundwater.

It’s very interesting to have that kind of research going on in Calgary and, depending on where they go with it, it could be very, very useful.”

I, for one, can only hope that when I go to the bathroom in the future, I will be powering a city.

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