RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – RTI International has been awarded a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop a toilet for use in developing nations that converts human waste into burnable fuel, stored energy and disinfected, non-potable water.
RTI International is an independent non-profit institute that provides research and development services to government and commercial clients worldwide. We have over 3,700 employees, projects in over 75 countries, and offices in Central America, sub-Saharan Africa, and Southeast Asia.
RTI is partnered with Duke University, Colorado State University, NASA’s Ames Research Center and the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory to develop a prototype of this safe, sanitary and affordable waste treatment system.
Our team includes experts in engineering, water and sanitation, energy, and economics:
Brian R. Stoner, PhD. (Principal Investigator and Project Lead), is a Distinguished Fellow in Materials and Electronic Technologies at RTI International and an Adjunct Professor in the Dept. of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Duke University. Brian is a materials scientist with expertise in the synthesis, processing, and characterization of materials using electrical, electrochemical and plasma techniques. At RTI, he leads multidisciplinary programs in Global Health Technologies with an emphasis on integrating expertise across engineering, social science, economics and policy to address complex global challenges. He holds 23 U.S. patents related to novel microelectronic materials and systems, and has authored or co-authored two book chapters and more than 150 scientific publications.
Myles Elledge (International Development Lead) is RTI’s Senior Director for Global Programs. Mr. Elledge has worked in 21 countries with USAID, the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Japan Overseas Development Corporation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the World Bank. Over the past 20 years, his work on water and sanitation issues has focused at the national policy level and on supporting improved social infrastructure planning and service delivery at the subnational level. Mr. Elledge has supported projects in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Eastern Europe. He served as task leader for the global USAID Environmental Health Project to develop guidance documents on sanitation policy, and he recently led a peri-urban sanitation intervention in Indonesia supported by Taiwanese partners. He holds a B.A. degree in Third World Studies from the University of the South, and a master’s degree in International Economic and Social Development from the University of Pittsburgh.
David Stokes, Ph.D. (Solid Waste Processing and Energy Harvesting Lead), is the technology manager for device packaging and system integration in the Center for Solid State Energetics at RTI. At RTI, Dr. Stokes is developing improved system integration technology for thermal management and energy harvesting. In addition to extensive work in the area of thermoelectric (TE) power generation, over the last four years, he has been active in developing a Thermoelectric Enhanced Cookstove Add-on (TECA) device for improving efficiency and reducing harmful emissions from biomass stove combustion. His experience includes management and support over a variety of TE power generation programs and a current CDC program to develop RTI’s TECA technology for use in indigenous stoves in Kenya.
Morgan Defoort, Ph.D. (Solid Waste Combustion Lead) – Co-Director of the Engines and Energy Conversion Laboratory (EECL) at CSU. His work in energy R&D includes advanced ignition systems for distributed generation, second generation bio‐fuels, biomass combustion, and technology for sustainable development. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the Rocky Mountain Sustainable Living Association and Technical Advisory Board for EnviroFit International, a non-profit company dedicated to developing and disseminating clean engine technology in Asia.
John Mizia (Lead Combustion Engineer) John leads the biomass cook stoves program at the EECL and is lead engineer for the solid waste gasification unit. He joined the EECL team in 2012 after spending nine years in the aerospace industry at United Launch Alliance where he developed booster propulsion systems. John also coordinates testing activities within the lab, working with industry leaders to develop and further technologies which improve living conditions in the developing world.
Ethan Klem, Ph.D. (Liquid Waste Processing Lead) is a Research Scientist in the Center for Materials and Electronic Technologies at RTI. He received his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Toronto where his research focused on the development of electronic and optical device technologies built upon nanostructured, solution processable, and thin-film materials. His work at RTI includes the development of water disinfection technologies and the application of photo-electrochemical water splitting for hydrogen generation. Additionally he works to advance the efficiency of low-cost solar cells and develop new technologies for camera sensors.
Jeffrey T. Glass, Ph.D., M.B.A (Electrochemical Disinfection and Materials Development Lead), is a Professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department and the Hogg Family Director of Engineering Management and Entrepreneurship in the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University. He has been a member of advisory boards for several start-ups, the interim CTO of a start-up during a leadership transition, conducted due diligence for venture capital firms, consulted for fortune 500 companies, and testified as an expert witness in patent litigation. He has published over 140 papers and book chapters, edited six books, is a co-inventor on 15 patents and is an ISI Highly Cited Researcher in Materials Science.
Jeff Piascik, Ph.D. (System Integration Lead) is a staff research scientist in Materials and Electronic Technologies at RTI International. Prior to joining RTI, he worked for MTS Systems Corporation as a applications engineer and product manager where he managed new product development and marketing for standard and custom applications. At RTI, his work has included; development of novel materials systems for bio-applications and electronic technologies, material surface functionalization for adhesion and anti-microbial properties, and MEMS-based electronic devices.
Thaddeus Hunt (Web Developer & Communications) is a web developer at the Duke Clinical Research Institute as well as the owner of Conduit Designs, LLC, a one-man web developement shop located in downtown Durham, NC. He’s been hand-crafting sites for well over a decade (including the very site you are looking at right now) and is responsible for administering abettertoilet.org in addition to facilitating the web-based documentation and communication of RTI International’s reinvent the toilet project.
Michael Flynn (NASA Ames) – Scientist from Space Biosciences Division with expertise developing systems that convert human waste for reuse on space missions and related applications. Michael Flynn serves as technical adviser to the team.
Paul Natishan, Ph.D. (Naval Research Laboratory) – Head of the Corrosion Science and Environmental Effects Section at NRL with expertise in electrochemical treatment of environmental waste. He is also the past President (2009-2010) and Fellow of the Electrochemical Society (ECS) and Fellow of the National Association of Corrosion Engineers (NACE). Dr. Natishan serves as technical adviser to the team.
Robin Szczuka (US Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center (NSRDEC)) – Is a Senior Chemical Engineer of the Fabric Structures Team at NSRDEC where he works on developing state of the art technologies and concepts aimed at improving performance and capabilities of expeditionary shelters for the Warfighter. Robin has more than a decade of experience managing technical projects involving advanced shelter technologies and products including, CBRN protection & decontamination, black waste remediation and management, fire safety, performance textiles, energy efficient and hybrid energy systems as well as novel support structures. He also has extensive experience serving as project manager on wide range of research based shelter initiatives and also provides support to Force Provider (FP) systems at the Base Camp Integration Laboratory (BCIL). Mr. Szczuka serves as a technical adviser to the team.
Chris Aall (US Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center (NSRDEC)) – Is a Senior Mechanical Engineer of the Fabric Structures Team at NSRDEC. Mr. Aall has played a vital role in the hands-on development of novel expeditionary basecamp technologies; including, but not limited to, quick-to-deploy inflatable structures, radiant heating for billeting shelters, and water demand reduction technologies to mitigate basecamp waste backhaul and resupply operations. In his 9 years of project management and applied engineering at NSRDEC, he has created innovative test methodologies for evaluating showerhead mechanical cleaning performance and quantifying condensation build-up in expeditionary shelter systems. His cold weather organizational equipment expertise has positioned him as a NSRDEC liaison to the National Science Foundation, in support of developing austere sheltering systems for both Greenland and Antarctica research operations. Mr. Aall serves as a technical adviser to the RTI team.
Links to Partner Organizations:
Advanced Diamond Technologies:
CSU Engines and Energy Laboratories: http://www.eecl.colostate.edu
Duke University Supercritical Sanitation Team:
We Are Water Foundation:
US Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center (NSRDEC):
SuSanA – Sustainable Sanitation Alliance: