Toilet of The Future Will Run on Solar and Recycle Waste

The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation is known for giving large sums of many of many worthy causes, but perhaps the cause with the biggest potential to impact people's lives is the Toilet of the Future contest where contestants compete to build a sustainable toilet.

The Microsoft co-founder has provided over $340 million in funding to have engineers, scientists and inventors develop a toilet system that can be used in developing areas. The toilet have to be able to process and dispose of human waste without electricity and running water as many developing areas do not have access to such commodities.

"Imagine what's possible if we continue to collaborate, stimulate new investment in this sector, and apply our ingenuity in the years ahead," Gates said during the competition on Tuesday.

"Many of these innovations will not only revolutionize sanitation in the developing world, but also help transform our dependence on traditional flush toilets in wealthy nations," he added.

On Tuesday, the foundation revealed that it was providing an additional $3.4 million in new funding for toilet projects being worked on by various organizations, including the prize money given to the winning team.

A team from Caltech was awarded the first place prize of $100,000 for its working model of a solar-powered toilet. The design uses solar power to power an electrochemical reactor that breaks down feces and urine into hydrogen gas. The gas is then stored in hydrogen fuel cells to provide an energy source for night operation or use in low-sunlight conditions, according to

About 2.6 billion people, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia, do not have access to proper sanitation facilities.

Gates feels strongly that the results of this project would have a much farther reach than the developing world.

"If we do it right, there's every possibility that some of these designs would also be solutions for rich and middle-income countries," Gates said.