Dual flush buttons, bricks in water tanks and other measures to save water in the toilet work, but only to an extent. Sometimes we end up flushing more than once and it really eliminates any kind of benefit we may be getting from the normal water saving techniques. However, scientists from Penn State University have come up with an entirely new solution, which could in theory cut out toilet water waste by half.
You may think that this is not even a real problem. Yeah, you flush your waste away, but what’s the big deal? Well, you are flushing your waste with completely fresh drinkable water – that’s the problem. 141 billion litres of water are wasted every day just to flush the toilets and almost all of it is drinkable fresh water. Fresh water that becomes waste in a matter of seconds.
And it is not just some kind of a moral concern. This excess water is increasing the volume of our waste by a huge margin, making it more difficult to treat and easier to spread. And then there is a small matter of money.
Sure, your home has 1-3 toilets so it is no big deal, right? Yes, but malls, supermarkets, office buildings, hotels and other similar facilities have hundreds or even thousands of toilets wasting water every day. Even small saving per toilet add up to substantial amounts of money. And so it is in everyone’s best interest to save reduce water waste in the toilet.
Scientists from Penn State University created a new hydrophobic toilet coating called LESS (Liquid Entrenched Smooth Surface). It is a two-part system. The first one grows molecular “hair” as it dries. It reduces the contact surface that the water or waste can cling onto. Then the second coating makes everything very slippery. When LESS cures (which takes around 5 minutes) everything slides away really easily. This reduces the required water for flushing by half. In theory, it is possible to design a toilet with the LESS coating that would need no water, but we are not there yet.
Tak-Sing Wong, Wormley Early Career Professor of Engineering and associate professor of mechanical engineering and biomedical engineering, one of the developers of LESS, said: “Our team has developed a robust bio-inspired, liquid, sludge- and bacteria-repellent coating that can essentially make a toilet self-cleaning”.
LESS coating lasts for at least 500 flushes, which is a lot. Then it can be reapplied very quickly. But you cannot even buy it yet. Now scientists are putting a lot of effort into pushing LESS out of the laboratory. Making it commercial and affordable is the next step. Hopefully, it doesn’t take too long. LESS could be used by homeowners, hotels and various facilities to cut down water bills, waste and make toilets less smelly and cleaner.
This seems like a genius idea that is both simple and incredible at the same time. But scientists are not finished yet. LESS has to cost less than the saved water could cost or people will simply not use it.
Source: Penn State University