Tuesday, 4 December 2012

First lab results coming in!

After all the ideas and necessary planning phases, we're finally testing our ideas in the lab.   This photo shows an electrosprayed polymer web encapsulting a cardboard substrate.

Ongoing work will determine the optimal configuration of the electrospray heads and how the liquid polymer should be delivered to the spray heads.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Faecal Sludge Management 2 - Durban

We are delighted to be given the opportunity to present our ideas for the Nano Membrane Toilet at the Second Faecal Sludge Management Conference in Durban, from 29th October to 1st November.   Alison Parker presented on behalf of the team and received a warm welcome from the team at PID, WRC and eThekwini Municipality.   The presentation was well received, with lots of questions and challenges.   We were also able to present some of the results of a literature review on the characteristics of fresh faeces and urine that one of our PhD students, Chris Rose, is working on.   The presentation slides and video will be posted on the SuSanA website soon.

The conference was a great opportunity to share ideas with other sanitation practitioners working on all areas from technology to financing, and it was fantastic to be in such a large group all talking openly about sanitation and faecal sludge - even over lunch!

A particular highlight was the field visit.   With sanitation, even on-site sanitation, being included as one of South Africa's "basic services", South Africa's municipalities have to find a way to deal with full pit latrines at a large scale.   eThekwini municipality are leading the way, and we saw two different options for pit emptying as well as their current technology for treating faecal sludge.

 Using the eVac to empty wet pits
 Or manual emptying for drier pits
 The Latrine Dehydration and Pasteurising (LaDePa) plant, which dries and pelletises waste collected from pit latrines.   It is based in a shipping container so it can be transported around the city so it is close to where the pit emptying teams are operating.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Where it is all happening

Last week Carl Hensman from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation came to visit the team at Cranfield University who will be developing the Nano Membrane Toilet and see the facilities where the development will take place.   Actually many of the collaborators on the project hadn't seen each others' labs yet so it was a fascinating experience all round!

We started where we will finish with the labs equipped for testing components - we plan to reach TRL6 with the Nano Membrane Toilet in this project phase.
We then explored the nanotechnology labs where we looked at all sorts of nanotechnologies being developed, including the EHDA spray will be adapted for use on the toilet product.
In the wastewater labs we will be able to analyse how effective our treatment is.
And in the pilot hall we will build a rig to test the membrane and hydrophilic beads, similar to the one Bruce is demonstrating here.

All photos by Richard Franceys.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Ready, steady, go!

With our project starting on Sept 1st, we were keen to get going as soon as we could.   As this project brings together a team who haven't all worked together before we decided we should start with some introductions.   Rather than the typical round-table, everyone had to bring an item that represented their role in the project.   Here are some examples:

Rob brought a sample of that has been sprayed using the EHDA method we are going to use to coat the sludge briquette.

 Alison brought a sample of the "fake poo" that had been used to test the toilets at the Fair (actually Miso paste, available from Waitrose....)

Elise brought a calculator to remind us to keep our ideas within budget!   We weren't sure why it needs to be pink!

Sean brought some news stories that showed us that despite all our crazy ideas, there's a very serious reason why we are trying to "reinvent the toilet".

The Cranfield team attends the Reinvent the Toilet Fair

Last month Alison, Ewan and Athanasios were invited to Seattle to attend the Reinvent the Toilet Fair.   At the Fair the Round 1 grantees were exhibiting, so of course we were keen to see their progress and get inspired for our project which started two weeks later.   The event was fantastic with a real focus on networking and sharing ideas.   All of the toilets had been physically shipped to the Fair so we could see the designs in action!   The Fair was also attended by many other Gates grantees on sanitation, so we could see other ideas and components which we may be able to incorporate into our design.  

There was a huge media presence at the Fair, with everyone really interested on what crazy ideas were being presented, as well as why Bill Gates has chosen sanitation as an issue to focus on. It was good to see toilets being given such a high profile, as they are certainly not at the sexy end of the development spectrum!

We now can't wait to get started!