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Centrifugal Separation of Biosolids for a Novel Toilet Design

Centrifugal Separation of Biosolids for a Novel Toilet Design

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An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards (International Programme) Competition by Sami Khan. Originally submitted for Chemical Engineering Fourth Year Undergraduate Thesis at University of Toronto, with lecturer Mark Kortschot in the category of Engineering & Mechanical Sciences
An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards (International Programme) Competition by Sami Khan. Originally submitted for Chemical Engineering Fourth Year Undergraduate Thesis at University of Toronto, with lecturer Mark Kortschot in the category of Engineering & Mechanical Sciences

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 31, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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08/03/2014

 
 
Centrifugal Separation of Biosolidsfor a Novel Toilet Design
 
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Abstract
It is estimated that around 2.6 billion people today do not have access to a sanitary toilet.The lack of proper human waste management has further led to an increase in deadly water-borne diseases such as cholera. In order to address this growing concern, a novel solar-poweredtoilet is being designed primarily for application in third world countries (a project called
“Reinvent the Toilet Challenge”)
. This independently functioning low-maintenance toilet will becapable of accepting any form of human waste (feces or urine), separating the input into solidand liquid streams and ultimately producing purified liquid devoid of disease causing pathogens.One of the options proposed for liquid treatment is centrifugation followed by ultraviolet(UV) disinfection. Centrifugation is a promising alternative because it can remove fine biosolidswhich can be otherwise detrimental to effective UV disinfection. Previous studies show littleevidence on a physical model for centrifugation with no information on centrifuging fecalsuspensions in particular, or specifically ensuring readiness for UV disinfection. Theseobservations drive the motivation behind this project with the main objective being to investigatethe theory of centrifugation and assess its feasibility in clarifying liquid waste in the toilet priorto UV disinfection.To begin with, a first principles mathematical model was developed based on the physicallaws governing particle settling in a rotating tube in order to express the biosolid recoverypercentage following centrifugation as a function of the product of centrifugal acceleration andtime. In order to validate the model, centrifugation experiments were performed using a bench-top centrifuge with both simulated and sterilized human feces. For the range of centrifugalacceleration and time investigated, experimental results show an excellent correlation with themodel (±7% on average).
 
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In order to test the model prediction as well as simulate a functioning process in thetoilet, a feces suspension of a concentration typical to that in the anticipated toilet was first sand-filtered and then centrifuged using the time and acceleration parameters predicted by the modelfor that particular suspension to reach the desired UV disinfection benchmark. The obtainedresults also agree with the model predictions (± 4%).Thus, the experimentally-validated model developed in this project not only convincinglysets a basis for designing a centrifuge in this novel toilet, but also has wide industrialimplications (especially in municipal wastewater treatment and chemical and food processing)for designing and sizing batch or continuous centrifuges more efficiently based on firstprinciples.

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