On January 22, 2015, Microsoft founder, Bill Gates, of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, came on the set of The Tonight Show with all-around funnyman Jimmy Fallon, with a simple proposition for Fallon: let’s each drink a glass of water.
Oh… here’s the catch: one of the glasses contained bottled water, while the other was very recently fresh sewage, filtered using Gates’ latest philanthropic effort, the Omni Processor.
Let’s watch the fun results:
Omni Processor Water Purifier
In retrospect, it seems incredibly obvious that the solution to the question “how do we get potable water to all of Africa?” ended up being this process which involves high school level chemistry. On some level it’s very simple, hearkening back to basic principles that have been understood for centuries.
How much of a solution are we talking about? Well according to the Omni Processor’s website this machine can process a moving van’s worth of sewage each day and turn it into 10,800 liters of water a day. If you use the calculations from the Institute of Medicine, that’s enough drinking water to keep 3700 people healthy, per day!
Human beings need about 2.6 liters (11 cups) of water per day to stay healthy.
The energy from the generators seems to be a bonus! (I could produce enough energy for 50 small households per year.)
Let’s learn a bit more about the science behind the Omni Processor
The long and short of water purification
- When you heat something up to dry it, pure water is separated in the form of steam and can be used to drive a generator creating electricity. Remember the invention of the steam engine in the 1800s!
- To get the heat to dry the feces, they are burning that same dry waste as fuel. This is actually nothing new either; poop burns, and burns well, and for thousands of years in arid regions of the planet where there are no trees for firewood, people have been collecting, drying and burning animal dung to cook their food.
- When the steam circulates through the generators, you can capture it and turn it back into liquid water. No pathogens can survive the temperatures that the steam goes through so the water comes out perfectly safe to drink!
Other than the initial energy needed to dry that very first batch, it’s a completely closed loop! (This is something we will be hearing more and more about as we try to re-vamp how resources are used on our planet.)
If you’d like to learn more about that exciting horizon, we have two fabulous articles that demonstrate the best of the Closed Loop possibilities. Check out our article called Cow Power.
Scroll down to the bottom of this page to see a few more articles that will surprise and delight you.
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- “Bill Gates and Jimmy Drink Poop Water.” YouTube. The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, 22 Jan. 2015. Web. 22 Feb. 2015. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FHgsL0dpQ-U>. ↩
- “Janicki Omniprocessor.” YouTube. Thegatesnotes, 5 Jan. 2015. Web. 22 Feb. 2015. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bVzppWSIFU0>. ↩