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FEET (From Excreta to Energy, Transformation) / Hydrothermal carbonization as a sustainable solution for faecal waste treatment in less developed communities

Project description

New technology to deal with faecal waste

Poor sanitation is linked to disease transmission. According to the World Health Organisation, one billion people use toilets or latrines where excreta were disposed of in situ. Moreover, of the two billion people who do not have toilets or latrines, 673 000 defecate in the open (behind bushes or into open bodies of water). The EU-funded FEET project has found a sustainable solution. Specifically, hydrothermal carbonisation (HTC) technology can convert wet organic feedstock into valuable carbonaceous products under pressurised conditions in a relatively mild temperature range. FEET is now working to address the technical and financial factors that currently hinder the implementation of this technology. For instance, it is developing HTC reactors with common pipe-fitting materials.


Despite the global effort for providing proper sanitation service to the habitants in less developed regions, still massive amount of faecal waste is disposed of in-situ resulting in serious health problems and environmental contamination. Hydrothermal carbonization (HTC) technology which converts wet organic feedstock into valuable carbonaceous products under pressurized conditions in a relatively mild temperature range (180-220 ̊C) has been suggested as a capable option for faecal waste treatment for those places in need. However, the technical and financial barriers hamper the practical implementation of the technology. In order to overcome these challenges, this research project aims to develop an appropriate low-cost HTC system for faecal waste treatment. Batch HTC reactors will be developed employing common pipe-fitting materials, and their standard operation regime will be established. Strategies for affording the energy demand of the system will be developed based on the products from previous treatments: combustion of solid material (hydrochar) and biogas generation from liquid material (process water). Also, basic properties of the hydrochar and process water will be investigated regarding their potential use as fuel, fertilizer and adsorbent. This two-year-long project will generate new knowledge based on the specialties of participants: Zurich University of Applied Sciences (Zurich, Switzerland, host organization), Leibniz Institute of Agricultural Engineering and Bio-economy (Potsdam, Germany, host of 6 months secondment) and the applicant. The applicant will receive necessary technical training in both institutions and play a role as a medium for inter-institutional knowledge transfer. The output of this project will contribute to the provision of communal toilet facilities in less developed communities and provide technical evidence for the potential of low-cost small-scale implementation of HTC system in both less developed and developed countries.


Net EU contribution
€ 191 149,44
8401 Winterthur

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Schweiz/Suisse/Svizzera Zürich Zürich
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 191 149,44