Houston, Jan 9: With an aim to prevent diseases caused by contaminated water supply, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has joined hands with a US firm to develop a plant which can turn human faeces into potable water, saying the new technology could be a "great fit" in India.
The plant known the Omniprocessor was designed and built by Seattle-based Janicki Bioenergy and backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The facility would try to prevent diseases caused by contaminated water supplies.
According to a blog post of Bill Gates, at least 2 billion people worldwide don't have access to adequate sanitation, with human waste often polluting the water supply and remaining untreated. Gates said the Omniprocessor could also be a "great fit" in India working with local entrepreneurs to make the machine a reality.
"There's no indication of price (it could be "several years" until it's ready), but at the same size as two double-decker buses, it's definitely not a consumer technology. Instead, it's hoped that local governments and entrepreneurs will be interested," he said in the blog. "Diseases caused by poor sanitation kill some 7,00,000 children every year," Gates wrote, "and they prevent many more from fully developing mentally and physically," he added.
"Western toilets aren't the answer, because they require a massive infrastructure of sewer lines and treatment plants that just isn't feasible in many poor countries. So a few years ago our foundation put out a call for a new solution," Gates said.
Gates: Diseases caused by poor sanitation kill some 7,00,000 children every year
"The "Omniprocessor" aims to help with this problem. Its development is led by Seattle-based engineering firm Janicki Bioenergy," he added. The machine extracts water from sewage that's piped in or delivered to the facility. The dry sewage is then incinerated to generate steam, which powers the entire machine. Gates publicly demonstrated his commitment to the new technology by drinking a glass of water on camera that entered the machine as feces just minutes before.
He said that it's as "good as any he's had out a bottle" and would "happily drink it every day. A test plant is up and working at Janicki's headquarters, according to the blog post. The first operational plant is planned for Senegal.
"The next-generation processor, more advanced than the one I saw, will handle waste from 1,00,000 people, producing up to 86,000 litres of potable water a day and a net 250 kw of electricity," he wrote.
"If we get it right, it will be a good example of how philanthropy can provide seed money that draws bright people to work on big problems, eventually creating a self-supporting industry." the blog post added.