So argues a Duke University environmental engineer who envisions a simple system that can be constructed from everyday items designed specifically for Third World countries, where the disposal of solid human waste and the corresponding spread of disease is a leading health concern.
Marc Deshusses, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Duke's Pratt School of Engineering, has plans to develop a novel sewage digestion system with capture of the methane gas produced during the breakdown of the waste to produce enough heat to kill the bacteria and viruses most commonly associated with human waste.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, an organization that works to help all people lead healthy and productive lives, believes that Deshusses's idea has promise. The foundation's Grand Challenges Explorations program granted Deshusses $100,000 to move his ideas from the laboratory to field-testing in 18 months. The program awarded 110 such grants today.
"People in countries that lack proper sanitation for their sewage desperately need a disposal method that is cheap, simple to implement and maintain, and reliable," Deshusses said. "We believe the proposed system could represent a major advance in environmental and health protection for developing countries."
In the system Deshusses designed, the waste would be directed to a chamber, likely constructed of PVC pipe. Once sealed in the chamber to create an oxygen-free, or anaerobic, environment, bacteria digests the waste. As a byproduct of this digestion, methane gas is produced.
"The system works much like septic tanks used in many rural communities," Deshusses said. "However, in septic tanks, the methane produced is released into the environment, which a lost opportunity as well as an environmental liability. As a greenhouse gas, methane is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide."
Instead of letting the methane escape into the environment, the new approach captures it and burns it, creating enough heat to kill pathogens in the effluent. Deshusses added that additional organic materials, like leftover food scraps or animal waste, might need to be added along with the human waste to boost the amount of organic matter and increase the methane produced by the anaerobic microbes.
Deshusses said he and a team of Duke researchers will spend the early phase of the grant period perfecting and testing the system in the laboratory before producing a prototype.
"The ultimate goal is to build a device which we will take to Las Mercedes, Honduras, where it will be tested during an eight-week civic engagement project in which Duke students work with local organizations," Deshusses said. The program is the national Engineers Without Borders (EWB) effort, of which the Duke chapter has active projects throughout the Third World.
If the field-testing proves successful, Deshusses anticipates testing the device in up to five additional countries to be identified with the assistance of the Gates Foundation.
The program funding Deshusses's idea is a $100 million initiative launched in 2008. To date, it has funded nearly 500 researchers from over 40 countries. Initial grants of $100,000 are awarded twice a year. Successful projects have an opportunity to receive a follow-on grant of up to $1 million.
"We believe in the power of innovation -- that a single bold idea can pioneer solutions to our greatest health and development challenges," said Chris Wilson, Director of Global Health Discovery for the Gates Foundation. "Grand Challenges Explorations seeks to identify and fund these new ideas wherever they come from, allowing scientists, innovators and entrepreneurs to pursue the kinds of creative ideas and novel approaches that could help to accelerate the end of polio, cure HIV infection or improve sanitation."
Richard Merritt | EurekAlert!
Upcycling 'fast fashion' to reduce waste and pollution
03.04.2017 | American Chemical Society
Litter is present throughout the world’s oceans: 1,220 species affected
27.03.2017 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung
More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.
Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...
Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.
"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
28.04.2017 | Event News
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering
28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences
28.04.2017 | Life Sciences