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USF researchers develop off grid NEWgenerator to treat waste around globe

2.6 billion people in the world could benefit from a new wastewater treatment technology developed by a University of South Florida research team.

USF Associate Professor of Engineering Daniel Yeh has been researching the technology at the core of the wastewater treatment machine, the NEWgenerator, since 2002; Yeh started developing the current application with a team of students in 2011, when his venture received $100,000 in funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Yeh’s project, which has also received funding from the Indian government and won $50,000 from the Cade Museum Prize in 2014, aims to develop a new technology for sanitation and waste treatment in developing countries.

An environmental engineer who received a PhD from Georgia Tech, Yeh explains, “We work on the interface between humans and nature – making sure society has its needs met, but without destroying nature in the process. We want to find solutions that are sustainable, and that protect both human and ecological health.”

Yeh was drawn to working on the technology to turn dirty wastewater into clean water during post-doctoral research at Stanford University, but he notes, “This idea of recycled water is not new. Humans have been doing this for hundreds of years, at least. The trick is determining how to do it safely.”

Using animal or human waste as fertilizer is dangerous because of pathogens that can result in sickness, Yeh says, so reusing wastewater requires a conversion process that eliminates dangerous pathogens. Wastewater treatment plants can recycle reclaimed water on a large scale, but there are few systems that can treat water on a small scale. The NEWgenerator can.