June 17, 2011; Source: TechCrunch | A $1.5 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation seeks to help turn something that’s plentiful into something that is especially scarce in developing countries. According to TechCrunch, the grant will underwrite a facility in Ghana’s capital of Accra to “turn human waste from sewage into biodiesel and methane that can be used as fuel.”

More so, the project could pay double dividends by helping tackle what is described as a “major sanitation problem common in cities that are unable to pipe sewage to treatment plants.” According to TechCrunch, the bacteria in “sewage can easily make its way into water sources used for cooking, drinking and irrigation, leaving locals, especially children, susceptible to dying of diarrhea-related diseases such as cholera.”

The project is being led by Dr. Kartick Chandrand of Columbia University, along with Moses Mensah, a Chemical Engineering professor at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, and Ashley Murray founder and director of Waste Enterprisers.

Noting that this isn’t the “first time fecal matter has been used to create energy,” TechCrunch says what makes this project standout is that it helps both boost energy supplies while helping to safely dispose of wastewater that poses a health threat.—Bruce Trachtenberg