Why is Samsung reinventing the toilet?

Samsung announces the development of a revolutionary toilet system – which could stem the spread of pathogens.

© Samsung

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has decided to tackle a global problem that is as underestimated as it is major: that of toilets. In some parts of the world, toilets pose a huge health problem. Effluents are discharged on-site without any treatment, contaminating groundwater and waterways often used for drinking water consumption. This situation favors the spread of deadly pathogens.

UNICEF estimates that around 3.6 billion people around the world are forced to resort to this type of toilet “resulting in the death of half a million children under the age of 5 each year, the aftermath of diarrheal diseases triggered by limited access to clean water and sanitation,” Samsung’s statement read.

Samsung has developed an autonomous toilet to attack pathogens

In the places concerned, a sewage network is rarely available, which forces us to find new solutions so that these populations can meet their needs in complete safety. In 2011, the foundation launched its Reinvent the Toilet Challenge.

The idea is to support the development and commercialization of solutions to remove the most dangerous pathogens from human waste while extracting from this material clean water, nutrients for agriculture, and energy. These systems must be completely autonomous and not be connected to water inlets and sewage networks – all for minimum electricity consumption.

The intention is that the solution can be equally well adapted in developing countries as in developed countries. Using these toilets must cost no more than $0.05 per user per day – and, according to the criteria of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the solution must “promote sustainable and profitable toilet services and businesses in poor urban environments”.

25 major advances have been made since. And Samsung has also decided to take up the challenge by building a prototype toilet incorporating a reprocessing plant. Or rather the  Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology  (SAIT) – the research and development center of the firm, which has been working on this project since 2019.

The firm thus announces that the SAIT has “recently completed the development of the central technologies of these toilets and has successfully developed and tested a prototype” –  the official visual of which is included on the cover of this article. Samsung also intends to offer free licenses to competitors around the technologies concerned.

This prototype toilet includes a heat treatment system as well as a biological treatment to reject only materials free of pathogens and safe for the environment. The water is 100% recycled to supply the toilets, and the solids are dehydrated, dried, and then reduced to ash.

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