Just when you think you've got a "handle" on all the low flow toilet products and features available, along comes something that will make it all obsolete. Say hello to the high-tech no flow toilets of the future, courtesy of somebody who certainly knows a bit about innovation, Bill Gates.

According to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, 2.5 billion people in the world are without access to flush toilets, and over 1 million children die every year from diarrhea and sicknesses attributable to lack of sanitation. Last summer, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awarded $4 million in grants to 8 university teams. Their challenge was to produce a prototype of a hygienic, near waterless toilet that cost less that 5 cents per day to operate. Ideally it would also generate useful byproducts like fertilizer and energy. 

  • First prize at the Reinvent the Toilet Fair went to this design from The California Institute of Technology.
    First prize at the Reinvent the Toilet Fair went to this design from The California Institute of Technology.

The designs were showcased last week at the Reinvent the Toilet Fair in Seattle. The California Institute of Technology won first place for a toilet that uses a solar powered electrochemical reactor to breakdown waste into hydrogen. The hydrogen is then stored in fuel cells and used to power the unit at night or in periods of low light.