Using an innovative mix of steam energy and water filtration, according to Gates and his Foundation, this plant can convert up to 14 tons of wastewater into potable water and electricity each day. The plant collects human feces from wastewater, which goes through a drying phase, in which it enters a kind of high-temperature oven. Thanks to this, heat is generated that is transformed into electricity and also, in that same phase, totally clean water is obtained to be consumed. It also creates a non-toxic ash as a by-product, ash that contains phosphorous and potassium and can be used as a fertilizer.
Now that a prototype is underway in Washington, the foundation hopes to bring the OmniProcessor plant to India, Africa and other parts of the developing world.
According to the Foundation, each approximately $ 1.5 million plant can process wastewater from a community of about 100,000 residents.
The potential benefits are enormous. 40% of the global population lack adequate sanitation. About 1.5 million children die each year from contaminated food and water, and in hospitals in developing countries, half of the patients are admitted due to problems with water and sanitation. Furthermore, all this puts economic pressure on these countries. For example, in India, poor sanitation practices cost the country about 6.4% of its GDP.
Bill Gates comments that the OmniProcessor can help solve these problems, because it is much more efficient than ordinary treatment plants. Modern sewage plants draw on electricity from the grid, release water vapor into the atmosphere, and often buy natural gas to create enough heat to burn the wet sludge. However, the OmniProcessor recovers the wasted energy to reuse it.
The hope is that the wastewater processing business will shift from cost to profit when local operators - governments or philanthropic entrepreneurs - charge for the electricity and water the machine produces.
Next month, the Janicki team will travel to Dakar, Senegal to rebuild the OmniProcessor and, for the first time, test it in the underdeveloped world.
The Energy Newspaper