Thailand’s AIT invents ‘off the grid’ solar toilet and sewer system

The Asian Institute of Technology demonstrates how the heat from solar power can help disinfect septic tanks at the recently held Reinvent the Toilet exhibition in New Delhi, India.

solar septic tank

The Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) in Thailand showcased two of its latest toilet inventions at the recently held Reinvent the Toilet fair in New Delhi, India. The fair was held to present various designs and innovations in sanitation that are safe, affordable and sustainable, which include toilets that have no access to sewer, electricity and sufficient water.

Part of a project called Naturally Acceptable and Technologically Sustainable (NATS) Toilet, the two prototypes developed – the solar septic tank and the hydrocyclone toilet – are solutions that can help rural communities to dispose of human wastes with less environmental impact. In India, for instance, 53 per cent of households do not have access to clean toilets.

The Solar Septic Tank is a modified version of a conventional septic tank, but it uses solar heat to disinfect the wastes and efficiently collect the gas produced within the tank to heat the system.

In this video, Dr Thammarat Koottatep from the Environment Engineering and Management at AIT’s School of Environment, Resources and Development presented how the septic tank can disinfect the solid wastes onsite, which means the tank becomes an ‘instant sewer’ system using the heat from the solar panels and minimise sludge. The gas produced within the tank can also be used to heat the system.

The technology has received interests from technology partners in Pune, India who are looking to pilot the project in the country, explained Koottatep in a separate video interview with the Sustainable Sanitation Alliance.

Meanhile, the hydrocyclone toilet uses technology that separates the solid and liquid wastes onsite through a black water separator, described Dr Koottatep. The technology disinfects wastes, which then can be recycled and used as compost.

The AIT inventions materialised after a market research was conducted in countries such as Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia on the types of technology that can work on the ground for communities in these areas. 

Dr Koottatep and his team received a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) for the toilet projects. BMGF has awarded 16 grants to researchers around the world as part of the foundation’s sanitation programme called Reinvent the Toilet Challenge to develop environmentally safe, sustainable, and affordable toilets, according to AIT statement.

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