Potty Talk: The Re-Invention of The Toilet

Aside from some aesthetic advances and rudimentary low-flow innovations, the modern flush toilet basically has not evolved since its prototype first appeared at the end of the 16th Century. This year, Bill and Melinda Gates thought they’d accelerate the flow of progress by holding a contest to invent a better toilet. Across the globe over 2 and a half billion people don’t have access to adequate sanitation. The result: disease and death in the developing world that could be avoided entirely if only someone could come up with a toilet that didn’t require running water, electricity, or septic systems, wasn’t expensive, and didn’t create pollutants. Our guest today on Sea Change Radio is part of a team that invented precisely such a toilet. Clement Cid and a group of other Caltech graduate students, under the leadership of Caltech engineer Michael Hoffman, built a toilet that not only runs off of solar power, it actually creates hydrogen fuel and usable water. Hear how this team came up with the design that won the Gates Foundation contest and could potentially augur a cleaner, safer life for billions of people all around the world.