The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have funded a $1.5 million grant for a project that turns human waste into biofuel. This project will help to solve two of the biggest problems for developing countries – unsafe water and a lack of affordable and reliable energy.
The grant is for a “Next-Generation Urban Sanitation Facility”, and will take place in Accra, Ghana. Human waste from regular sewage will be used to make methane and biodiesel, both of which can be used a a fuel. This innovative project has massive potential to transform what is a huge health problem into a viable energy solution.
Dr. Kartick Chandran from Columbia University will lead the project, in collaboration with Moses Mensah, a Chemical Engineering professor at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, and Ashley Murray, founder and director of Waste Enterprisers.
The technology being used in this project has been developed with poor communities in mind, in places where transporting waste is a challenge due to a lack of infrastructure. Bacteria in sewage often makes its way into water sources in these situations, so a local solution that deals with waste materials on-site is often what is needed.
The grant team will be building a biorefinery that uses fecal matter, hopefully reducing the occurrence of diarrhoea, cholera, and other diseases that proliferate through dirty water. With the Gates Foundation estimating that 2.5 million people don’t have access to safe sanitation, this project has enormous potential to transform developing nations.
On the Gates Foundation website, the organisation speaks of the ongoing goals of their program:
Our Global Health Program harnesses advances in science and technology to save lives in poor countries. We focus on the health problems that have a major impact in developing countries but get too little attention and funding. Where proven tools exist, we support sustainable ways to improve their delivery. Where they don’t, we invest in research and development of new interventions, such as vaccines, drugs, and diagnostics.