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Researchers at Caltech won last year’s Reinvent the Toilet Challenge, receiving the US $100 000 grand prize from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Their entry was a solar-powered toilet and wastewater treatment system designed to prevent the thousands of fatalities caused by pathogens bred in open-air pits. Caltech’s demonstration unit features a Western toilet, a urinal, and a squat toilet. A solar panel generates enough electricity to power an electrochemical process that sanitizes the liquid and turns the solid waste into fertilizer.
Willie Jones is an associate editor at IEEE Spectrum. In addition to editing and planning daily coverage, he manages several of Spectrum's newsletters and contributes regularly to the monthly Big Picture section that appears in the print edition.