Kartik Chandran, an associate professor of earth and environmental engineering at Columbia University, has been awarded a $1.5 million grant by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop a sustainable water, sanitation, and energy technology.
With Ashley Murray, founder and director of Waste Enterprisers, and Moses Mensah, a professor of chemical engineering at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana, Chandran will work to develop a bioprocess technology that transforms the organic compounds in fecal sludge into biodiesel and methane. In addition to being economical, converting human waste into sources of energy would minimize the fecal sludge discharged into local bodies of water, thereby improving human health and sanitation.
The team aims to create a "next-generation urban sanitation facility" in Accra, Ghana, by converting a waste-processing facility into a biorefinery. If successful, the project could lead to the creation of a social enterprise business model that can be exported around the globe.
"[W]e are especially pleased that the Gates Foundation has recognized the critical importance of sustainable sanitation by investing in our pioneering project," said Chandran. "Thus far, sanitation approaches have been extremely resource- and energy-intensive and therefore out of reach for some of the world's poorest but also most at-need populations. This project will allow us to move forward and develop practical technologies that will be of great value around the world."