The Scion Research team turned to a technology that is fairly well known in large-scale applications (it’s used in mining and also sewage treatment), which they think could work well if innovative methods are used to downsize it. The method is called wet oxidation. Essentially, it works by taking waste and adding oxygen and then putting everything under pressure and gently heating it to about 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
There are 2.5 billion people around the world who don’t have access to safe, affordable sanitation systems. That means every time they go to the bathroom they have to put themselves in an unhealthy or dangerous situation.
So why not just work on innovating infrastructure to help bring running water and sewage treatment facilities to places in the world that don’t have them? The Gates Foundation is working on innovating this as well, Gapes says, “but the fact is that in a lot of communities the infrastructure is so complex and the buildings and people are on top of one another and lack of access makes putting infrastructure in complex and unaffordable.
The challenge for the team is to find a way to create a small household system that contains heat and pressure in a way that is safe to have in a residence. Currently, the team is working on developing a microwave reactor that can quickly heat the unit and its relatively small and they’re also looking at options for using electricity.