Five years since the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation first challenged the world to design a sustainable and inexpensive toilet, researchers from Cranfield University may have a viable contender.
It's known as the Nano Membrane Toilet, and it was funded by the Gates Foundation in September 2012 for $710,000.
The design is waterless, easy to use, and provided it receives additional funding for field tests, could very well be part of the future of sanitation.
Around the world, more than 2.4 billion people still live in unsanitary conditions. Without access to clean running water, these at-risk communities face life-threatening sanitation-related diseases.
Alison Parker, a lecturer in International Water and Sanitation at Cranfield Water Science Institute, says her team's new design is meant to serve poor urban areas, as those will be easiest to accommodate.
"It will be very hard to carry out the scheduled maintenance" in remote areas, Parker tells Tech Insider, mostly because the toilet needs maintenance every six months at a minimum to replace certain parts. "Instead, the toilet will be used in dense urban areas where a number of factors make providing good sanitation very challenging, but where it would be possible to facilitate visits from a maintenance technician."
The toilet's actual design is rather complex.
After a person has done their business and closed the lid, the rotating toilet bowl turns 270 degrees to deposit the waste in a vat underneath. A scraper tool then wipes off any residual waste from the bowl.