Media Releases

U of T engineers awarded $2.2 million grant for toilet research

November 28, 2012

TORONTO, ON — A Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to engi­neer­ing team has received a major grant from the Bill and Melin­da Gates Foun­da­tion to con­tin­ue work on design­ing for a water­less, hygien­ic toi­let that is safe and afford­able for peo­ple in the devel­op­ing world.

The Gates Foun­da­tion award­ed the grant, worth $2.2 mil­lion for 15 months, to U of T Engi­neer­ing Pro­fes­sor Yu-Ling Cheng, Direc­tor of the Cen­tre for Glob­al Engi­neer­ing in the Fac­ul­ty of Applied Sci­ence & Engi­neer­ing, and her team. Ear­li­er this year, Pro­fes­sor Cheng’s team, which also includes researchers from West­ern Uni­ver­si­ty and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Queens­land, placed third in the Foundation’s Rein­vent­ing the Toi­let Chal­lenge.

The U of T Engi­neer­ing solu­tion uses a sand fil­ter and UV dis­in­fec­tion to process liq­uid waste and a smol­der cham­ber, sim­i­lar to a char­coal bar­beque, to incin­er­ate sol­id waste that has been flat­tened and dried in a roller/belt assem­bly. Going for­ward, the team will work to fur­ther sim­pli­fy the process, reduce mechan­i­cal com­plex­i­ty and min­i­mize odor.

“I am very proud of our entire team and the work we have done up to now,” Cheng said. “We have proven that our con­cept works tech­ni­cal­ly, now we are going to get busy to make sure it will work for the users – some of the 2.6 bil­lion peo­ple in the world who do not have access to basic san­i­ta­tion.” West­ern toi­lets, which rely on run­ning water, an exten­sive sew­er net­work and an expen­sive pro­cess­ing sys­tem, are not suit­able for the needs of peo­ple in the devel­op­ing world – many of whom live in places with­out the infra­struc­ture we take for grant­ed, she said.

Work­ing with local part­ners in Bangladesh, Cheng and her team hope to have an oper­a­tional pro­to­type by Decem­ber of 2013, one that uses read­i­ly avail­able mate­ri­als and equip­ment that can be main­tained local­ly, she said.

“We are all proud of the accom­plish­ments of Pro­fes­sor Yu-Ling Cheng and her team, and grate­ful to the Gates Foun­da­tion for the con­tin­ued sup­port,” said Pro­fes­sor Cristi­na Amon, Dean of the Fac­ul­ty of Applied Sci­ence & Engi­neer­ing. “The toi­let research project and the Cen­tre for Glob­al Engi­neer­ing exem­pli­fy U of T Engineering’s com­mit­ment to doing inno­v­a­tive research that mat­ters and which has glob­al impact.”

Besides Cheng, the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to Engi­neer­ing team includes engi­neer­ing pro­fes­sors Mark Kortschot, Eliz­a­beth Edwards, Yuri Lawryshyn, and Lev­ente Diosady, as well as PhD can­di­date Tiffany Jung and research asso­ciate Zachary Fish­man. Pro­fes­sors José Torero of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Queens­land and Jason Ger­hard of West­ern Uni­ver­si­ty are also key col­lab­o­ra­tors on the project.


For more infor­ma­tion, please con­tact:

Ter­ry Laven­der
Com­mu­ni­ca­tions & Media Rela­tions Strate­gist
Fac­ul­ty of Applied Sci­ence & Engi­neer­ing
Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to
Tel: 416–978-4498