Nano membrane toilet cross section
Nano membrane toilet cross section

Cranfield University’s unique Nano Membrane Toilet is on display this week at the Natural History Museum as part of Universities Week. 

The hygienic waterless toilet has the potential to transform the lives of the 2.5 billion people worldwide without access to basic sanitation, thanks to funding from the ‘Reinvent the Toilet Challenge’ of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Many areas in the developing world which lack access to safe and affordable sanitation are also those areas with non-existent or unreliable water, sewage and electricity supplies.

The project challenge was to produce a safe odourless toilet without the use of external water or power and which was not connected to a sewerage supply. The toilet developed at Cranfield is able to treat human waste on-site without external energy or water, allowing it to be safely transported away and reused.

The toilet uses a combination of innovative nano and advanced water treatment technologies developed by the University. When the toilet is used, the urine and faeces pass through a waterless flush and are hidden from sight. The solids and liquids are separated and the liquids treated by a membrane filter, which removes bacteria, producing safe reusable water. The remaining solids are reformed into a block, which can safely be removed from the filter and used for energy production.

The intention is that the toilets would be installed in people’s homes in developing countries and managed through a service contract covering the removal of the solid waste, at minimal cost to the user. It is anticipated that revenue generated from thermal processing of the solid wastes will help keep costs down to less than 5c per person per day. 

The nano membrane toilet may also have potential in wealthy countries, as clean, safe water and energy becomes a more precious resource and the world becomes increasingly eco-conscious.

Video of the difference one toilet can make.

Notes for editors

The project received $800,000 funding from the ‘Reinvent the Toilet Challenge’ of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene initiative. The Cranfield team now hope to develop the concept further.

See more information on the Nano Membrane Toilet website

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.