In a perfect world a person could take a dump in their car's gas tank, start up their ride, then drive to back to the Indian take-out restaurant from whence the vehicle's fuel originated. We're talking, of course, about turning poop into energy. It's humankind's most enduring feces-based scientific dream. And it's perhaps one step closer toward being a reality thanks to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The Calgary Heraldreports that Ian Gates (no relation to Bill) and Michael Kallos, researchers at the University of Calgary's Schulich School of Engineering have won a $100,000 grant to work on efforts to try and convert human waste into energy.
The U of C scientists are working on combining two established technologies to produce methane gas, fertilizer, heat, electricity and purified water from human waste.
"We're not starting at zero," said Kallos. "The technology we're talking about using has been used, but not in an integrated way."
Gates said there is existing technology for processing waste to gas and also for taking gas and turning it into electricity.
"Our design is to get a more efficient process," he said. "The technology we're proposing would provide an effective way to dispose of human fecal matter and urine by consuming them in the production of useful products."
Essentially the researchers are trying to make toilets with built in reaction chambers where yesterday's digested meatloaf becomes tomorrow's electricity.
The project may be new to the Gatess foundation, but Bill's old company Microsoft is no stranger to shitty research--just ask the Zune team.