Grand Challenges is a family of initiatives fostering innovation to solve key global health and development problems. Each initiative is an experiment in the use of challenges to focus innovation on making an impact. Individual challenges address some of the same problems, but from differing perspectives.
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Antonio Sánchez of Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona in Spain will test the ability of low-cost iron oxide biocompatible nanoparticles to increase the production of biogas from sludge and other organic wastes and also produce high quality sanitized compost.
Swapnil Chaturvedi of Samagra Off-Grid Utilities, Inc. in the U.S. proposes to deploy an innovative service that integrates customers' emotional and aspirational motivations with the introduction of clean sanitation in slums in India. The goal is to create a business that leverages the existing network of local entrepreneurs who exchange rechargeable batteries to also include a business of exchanging waste cartridges. If successful, there could be a potential additional business opportunity to use the waste cartridges to power a biodigester that could recharge the batteries.
Leonardo De Silva Muñoz of AI3D in Mexico proposes to design a mobile waste treatment system that extracts fecal sludge and uses plasma gasification to turn waste into a gas that can be used to synthesize diesel and produce electricity. The treatment system will be fitted into the bed of a pickup truck, and the gas mixture produced will power the truck, the waste treatment process, and the fecal sludge extraction system.
Mark Holtzapple of Texas A&M University in the U.S. seeks to demonstrate that carboxylic acid fermentation can be adapted as a sanitation treatment to not only kill pathogens in the waste but also convert it to liquid fuels, compost, and potable water that can be used for economic gain.
Daniel Yeh of the University of South Florida in the U.S. will develop a decentralized sanitation system which uses an anaerobic digester and membrane biotechnology to treat waste water and produce methane for energy, clean water, and fertilizer for agriculture.
Luiza Cintra Campos of the University College London in the United Kingdom proposes to develop a simulation tool that can be used in developing communities that have non-networked sanitation systems to effectively evaluate new sanitation technologies. By including parameters such as pit latrines served, distance to treatment, and potential for energy recovery, the simulation tool can aid communities in determining the best new systems for local needs.
Robert Borden of North Carolina State University in the U.S. will develop an inexpensive method to efficiently and hygienically remove human waste from cesspits. Borden will modify readily available gasoline powered augers and PVC pipes to operate as a progressive cavity pump for filling drums or other easily transported containers. In Phase I, Borden produced and tested an inexpensive machine that could effectively remove medium- to high-viscosity waste from a range of pits with different accessibilities in South Africa. In Phase II, he will further optimize the design to enable emptying of a wider range of pits containing waste with higher solid or liquid compositions. He will also develop a method to determine the amount of waste in pits and its composition prior to emptying, and incorporate a disinfection step during waste removal. The aim is to develop a comprehensive pit emptying system involving training in pit assessments, equipment maintenance, and use, which will be tested in at least four developing regions.
Steven Cobb and a team at the University of Durham in the United Kingdom proposes to develop a macroporous scaffold that can support bacterial cells and metal nanoparticles that work together to catalyze conversion of fecal sludge into hydrogen for electricity. This technology could be used as a stand-alone sanitation solution or integrated into existing sewage pipe networks.
Duvon McGuire of New Life International, Inc. in the U.S. will develop a low-pressure air compressor and air pump that can be used with simple, inexpensive small- scale windmill technologies to power waste water treatment systems in developing countries.
Caitlyn Butler, Mark Henderson and Brad Rogers of Arizona State University in the U.S. will adapt pit latrines to harvest organic substrates and nitrogen compounds in human waste using microbial fuel cells, which will transform the biochemical energy into carbon-neutral electricity.