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FEET – Hydrothermal carbonization as a sustainable solution for faecal waste treatment

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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.