Nano membrane toilet cross section
Nano membrane toilet cross section

Cranfield University has received further funding to develop its revolutionary waterless hygienic toilet - the Nano Membrane Toilet.

The funding will enable the team to enhance the design of the toilet with an innovative energy solution that will complete the treatment of the human waste, a potential life saver for the 2.5 billion people in the developing world without access to basic sanitation.

The toilet was developed as part of the global ‘Reinvent the Toilet Challenge’ set by the Water, Sanitation & Hygiene program of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The challenge was to develop a toilet that provides a safe sanitation solution for the developing world, at minimal cost to the user. Many areas which lack access to this basic need are also those areas with non-existent or unreliable water, sewage and electricity supplies. Cranfield’s solution is able to treat human waste on-site without external energy or water, allowing it to be safely transported away and potentially reused.

Dr Alison Parker, Cranfield’s lead researcher for the first phase of the project, explains: “The concept uses a combination of innovative nano and advanced water treatment technologies and the University’s specialist design skills. It works by reducing the water content of the sludge through membranes that allow removal of water as a vapour. The vapour is then cleaned before turning back into a liquid form.”

This second round of funding now enables the team to consider the treatment of the remaining solids using a gasifier, which will essentially burn the sludge within the toilet. This will create a more energy efficient toilet where all resulting water and solids are free from germs.

This unique toilet could have potential in wealthy countries, as clean, safe water and energy becomes more and more precious resources and the world becomes increasingly eco-conscious.

A prototype is expected to be ready for field testing in January 2016.

Notes for editors

About the Reinvent the Toilet challenge

The Water, Sanitation & Hygiene program of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation initiated the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge in 2011 to bring sustainable sanitation solutions to the 2.5 billion people worldwide who don’t have access to safe, affordable sanitation. The Reinvent the Toilet Challenge aims to create a toilet that:

  • Removes germs from human waste and recovers valuable resources such as energy, clean water, and nutrients
  • Operates "off the grid" without connections to water, sewer, or electrical lines
  • Costs less than US$.05 cents per user per day
  • Promotes sustainable and financially profitable sanitation services and businesses that operate in poor, urban settings
  • Is a truly aspirational next-generation product that everyone will want to use in developed as well as developing nations.

About Cranfield University

Cranfield University is a specialist postgraduate university that is a global leader for education and transformational research in technology and management.

Environment Doctoral Training Centre

This higher research degree is associated with our Environment Doctoral Training Centre (DTC). The Environment DTC provides a focal point for engagement and academic discussion for all students involved in environmentally-related research at Cranfield. It aims to encourage an effective and vibrant research culture, founded upon the diversity of activities and knowledge relating to the sector which characterise our research portfolio.

A tailored programme of seminars and events alongside the generic core skills training programme, provide those studying a research degree with a wealth of social and networking opportunities with Cranfield’s wider research community.