Bill Gates Highlights Omniprocessor Technology That Turns Human Waste into Clean Drinking Water
In many developing countries, there’s no safe way to dispose of human waste. In the developed world, there’s an infrastructure of sewer systems that handle our waste for us; a luxury that many across the globe don’t get to experience.
Instead, they’re forced to defecate in latrines that aren’t properly drained, or simply rid their waste out in the open. It’s an unfortunate way to live, and it has serious consequences when it comes to their drinking water.
For years, there was no other choice. But now Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, is promoting a company that has found a way to turn human waste into clean drinking water and electricity.
Gates explained on his blog:
The project is called the Omniprocessor, and it was designed and built by Janicki Bioenergy, an engineering firm based north of Seattle. I recently went to Janicki’s headquarters to check out an Omniprocessor before the start of a pilot project in Senegal.
Gates continued, explaining a usage situation for the Omniprocessor.
The Omniprocessor is a safe repository for human waste. Today, in many places without modern sewage systems, truckers take the waste from latrines and dump it into the nearest river or the ocean—or at a treatment facility that doesn’t actually treat the sewage. Either way, it often ends up in the water supply. If they took it to the Omniprocessor instead, it would be burned safely. The machine runs at such a high temperature (1000 degrees Celsius) that there’s no nasty smell; in fact it meets all the emissions standards set by the U.S. government.
How the Omniprocessor Works
First, the sludge travels from its container to a heating conveyor belt, where it’s boiled as it moves. The machine pulls the water vapor from the conveyor. The dry waste is then sent into a furnace, where it’s burned and produces steam.
The steam is then sent to a steam engine that drives the Omniprocessor generator, powering the processor and putting out excess electricity that can then be fed to the surrounding community.
The water vapor moves through a cleaning system and is pushed out from a spout when it’s clean and pure.
The person who owns the Omniprocessor can then make money with the waste, the electricity produced, the clean drinking water and the ash left over at the end, making it a positive for-profit endeavor.
According to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the first stop for the Omniprocessor is Senegal. Gates said:
If things go well in Senegal, we’ll start looking for partners in the developing world. I’m excited about the business model. The processor wouldn’t just keep human waste out of the drinking water; it would turn waste into a commodity with real value in the marketplace. It’s the ultimate example of that old expression: one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
Images from Wikimedia Commons and The Gates Notes.