Responding to the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge, Samsung Electronics and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have developed a prototype toilet that turns solid waste into ashes.
According to the World Health Organization and UNICEF, about 3.6 billion people are forced to use unsafe sanitation facilities, resulting in half a million children under the age of five dying every year from diarrheal diseases caused by limited access to safe water and hygiene. In the hope of tackling this challenge, in 2011, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation launched the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge to develop transformative toilet technologies that can safely and effectively manage human waste.
The Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology (SAIT), the research and development arm of Samsung Electronics, began working with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on the reinvented toilet in 2019, and recently finished the development of core technologies and successfully developed and tested a prototype.
During the three years of research and development, the SAIT worked on the basic design and developed the component and modular technology, leading to the successful development of a prototype for household use. The core technologies developed by Samsung include heat-treatment and bioprocessing technologies to kill pathogens from human waste and make the released effluent and solids safe for the environment. The system enables the treated water to be fully recycled. Solid waste is dehydrated, dried and combusted into ashes, while liquid waste is treated through a biological purification process. According to Samsung, the toilet is ‘energy efficient’ and designed to run without water.
Samsung plans to offer royalty-free licenses of patents related to the project to developing countries during the commercialisation stage. Samsung will also continue to provide close consultation to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to help bring the technologies to mass production. The two organisations will work together to identify industry partners willing to commercialise the technology, after making the design more efficient for mass production.