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November 30, 2018

Hydrochar — From Human Waste Into Renewable Biofuel

Lynn L Bergeson

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On November 16, 2018, scientists at the Israeli Ben-Gurion University (BGU) of the Negev announced the discovery of a new technique to produce biofuel from human excrement. In an attempt to reduce carbon footprint and address poor sanitation in Global South countries, scientists at BGU developed a technique called hydrothermal carbonization. By hydrothermally carbonizing raw solid human waste biomass, hydrochar, a coal-like sterilized substance, can be produced and used for household cooking and heating. Given energy scarcity and lack of basic sanitation in parts of the world, this new technique “could potentially serve as a sustainable sanitation technology with a closed-loop cycle approach while recovering energy and nutrients.” In addition to hydrochar, the newly developed technique also produces a liquid that is nutrient rich and can, consequently, be used as a fertilizer.