delware environmental institute

UDaily: UD research team tests sanitation system using breathable fabric technology

UDaily: UD research team tests sanitation system using breathable fabric technology

A group of University of Delaware students and researchers spent New Year’s in an unconventional way -- installing sanitation systems in India. A team of researchers led by Steven K. Dentel, professor of civil and environmental engineering, has been working for several years on a breathable fabric that can be used to line pit toilets and other basic sanitary facilities in developing nations.

Approximately 2.5 billion people around the world are still without adequate sanitation, which leads to water contamination responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths each year. About a billion people still have to defecate in the open, without any privacy or sanitary facilities.

The fabric Dentel and his team are developing is similar to that used in sports jackets and raincoats; it only allows tiny water vapor molecules through.

Dentel realized this could be a valuable way to filter out liquid water from human waste, letting the pure water escape while retaining everything else. Sewage placed in a container of this fabric would become dehydrated and therefore less hospitable to bacteria and other disease-causing organisms.