Friday, February 19, 2010

Cool Technology of the Week

Ok, you're going to think this is the strangest cool technology blog to date.

In my travels, I visit a large number restrooms throughout the world. Recently, I've noticed a significant rollout of "waterless" urinals.

There must be some serious technology behind this, since no "input" plumbing is required at all. I often used the analogy that the paperless hospital is as likely as the paperless bathroom, until the Japanese introduced me to a paperless high-tech bathroom. Now we have the waterless bathroom.

How does it work? A special cartridge contains a lighter than water liquid that floats on top of urine, providing an airtight seal between the urinal and plumbing - no odor of urine or sewer gas enters the room. A typical office building can save millions of gallons of water every year by installing these units. No water supply is needed so the capital costs of installing them are less than standard fixtures.

An environmentally sound, waterless urinal that uses the physical properties of fluids to create an airtight seal and eliminate odors, saving millions of gallons of water per year. That's cool!


Bernz said...

A few days ago, I was at a restaurant here in Boston (City Table on Boylston). They had one of these devices. They had a sign about it on the wall, too, letting us know not to expect water and just to accept the magic.

Fascinated, I tried to observe just how this thing worked, going as far as to cup water from the sink and drop it in.

After returning to the table, I launched into my excited discovery at the dinner table, barely able to contain myself. One by one, just about each person excused themselves to check it out. And each person returned excited by the news that these devices exist.

I know these will be commonplace in a short amount of time, but they are very very cool.

Vaughan Merlyn said...

Thanks for this post - I've seen (and used!) these things and wondered how they worked They certainly seem to be effective!

I love things that challenge "conventional wisdom" and all the assumptions that go into most product designs!

ajpeters said...

They are pretty common in some areas of California where water shortages have been a problem for years. For example, the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey used these pretty exclusively.
These are great except when something goes wrong. When one of these failed, the smell really seemed to pile up. pros and cons to everything...

Mary Jo Nimmo said...

OK I have to ask, both girls and boys room? Or is this just for the standup models? I know you didn't check but did someone else

John Halamka said...

These are stand up models (men's room)

John said...

This is related to the world's vanishing supply of phosphorus. The day will come when we may be obliged to recover that and other chemicals from human waste.

“There’s a whole industry that needs to be invented to capture phosphorus,” Elser said. “We need a new way of growing crops that keeps it in the field instead of letting it run down into the Gulf of Mexico. We need plants that are more efficient at getting phosphorus.

“We’re calling it ‘closing the human-phosphorus cycle.’”

Ideally, researchers say, cities will become phosphorus “hotspots” of urine and feces that can fertilize the surrounding farmland. Sweden for example, plans to recycle 60 percent of its phosphorus back into agriculture by 2015. Two Swedish cities presently require all new toilets to separate urine for use on local farms. The nutrients in one person’s urine are believed to be sufficient to produce at least half and potentially all the food requirements for another person.

Using collected human waste as a source of otherwise hard to obtain chemicals like phosphorus dates back at least to Nero’s “urine tax,” while alchemists in Europe routinely decanted urine to refine elemental phosphorus for their experiments.

Society’s prevailing view of wastewater as a pollutant and not a resource has been called “urine blindness.” Victor Hugo, the French novelist, saw it coming, various phosphorus studies have recalled. As he wrote in Les Miserables not long after the introduction of flush toilets in the mid 19th century:

►"Thanks to human dung, the earth in China is still as young as in the days of Abraham. Chinese wheat yields a hundredfold of the seed. There is no guano comparable in fertility with the detritus of a capital. A great city is the most mighty of dung-makers. Certain success would attend the experiment of employing the city to manure the plain. If our gold is manure, our manure, on the other hand, is gold."◄

Kevin Callahan said...

It's a wonderful device, but before installing the units you need to ensure that the drainage/outflow pipes are not made of copper. City Hall in Chicago used these units with the existing copper piping, which was then corroded through by the urinal outflow. This created quite a mess, as you can imagine.

Reese said...

I've read they are installed in hospitals and are more hygienic. You can look them up on web Found out this company has been around since 1991.