Meet the Sol-Char, an Incinerating Solar Powered Toilet

Sol-char Test Article lmage Credit : Discovery News

Sol-char Test Article lmage Credit : Discovery News

One of the long term challenges facing would-be pioneers off planet, is what to do with the all the waste generated.  While the space station has experimented with partially closed loop recycling systems, producing potable water from urine,  there is of course the other inevitable by-product of human presence to deal with as well, and here the options are more limited.

In looking ahead to a future in space, whether it is on the surface of the Moon, Mars, or the long spaces in between,  the daily struggle to generate power, limit consumption to sustainable levels and maintain a sanitary environment is one which is painfully familiar to many in the most impoverished parts of the world. Fortunately, advances in technology originally invented for space are often applicable to more Earthly problems which share the same basic limitation of being “off the grid.”  It may be a two-way street.

Discovery news reports on the development of one possible solution being put forward as an entry in the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation challenge to re-invent the toilet. The invention is called the Sol-Char, and it uses solar energy to incinerate waste, all while producing equally necessary components for promoting on-site food production.

From the article:

“Led by Karl Linden, a environmental engineering professor at the University of Colorado, a team of engineers built the Sol-Char, a toilet that scorches waste via fiber-optic cables, heated by solar concentrators on the roof. The system produces a useful byproduct called biochar, a sanitary charcoal briquette-like material that can be used for agricultural fertilizer and soil amendment.

“A solar concentrator has all this light focused in on one centimeter. It’d be fine if we could bring everyone’s fecal waste up to that one point, like burning it with a magnifying glass,” Linden told Motherboard. “But that’s not practical, so we were thinking of other ways to concentrate that light.”

Eight parabolic mirrors aim the sun’s rays onto a postage stamp-sized collector, then beamed into the cables. When heat combines with photons in the “reaction chamber,” 700 watts incinerate the waste at up to 600 degrees Fahrenheit.”


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