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 Grand Challenges Explorations Grants

Grand Challenges Explorations fosters creative projects that show great promise to improve the health of people in the developing world. Grants target an expanding set of global health topics, and there are two award rounds per year. Projects with demonstrated success in their initial phase of research have the opportunity to receive Phase II funding of up to $1 million.

On June 3, 2014, 52 researchers were awarded new Grand Challenges Explorations grants. Read more about these below. In addition, 3 Explorations projects were awarded Phase II funding. To read more about these new Phase II grants, select "Phase II" in the Grant Phase drop-down menu, while showing all topics and all rounds.

To review all Explorations projects, select “Show All Topics” in the Topic drop-down menu, "Show All Rounds" in the Date and Grant Round drop-down menu, and “Show All Phases” in the Grant Phase drop-down menu.

Topic
Technologies
Date and Grant Round
Grant Phase
Showing Grants 1 to 10 of 38
Breathable Membrane Enclosures for Fecal Sludge Stabilization
Primary Investigator:
Steven Dentel, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware, United States - US
Topic:
Round:
Round 7 – November 2011
Phase:
Phase II – Fall 2013
Steven Dentel of the University of Delaware in the U.S. will test the ability of a low-cost polymeric breathable membrane liner to accelerate the drying and disinfection of fecal waste in pit latrines, while protecting surrounding groundwater from being contaminated with pathogens and chemicals. Breathable membranes are hydrophobic, allowing only air or water vapor to pass through them. In Phase I, Dentel demonstrated that containing fecal sludge within a breathable membrane enabled it to be effectively dried under different environmental conditions, and resident pathogens were trapped and subsequently inactivated. He also showed that the membranes are reusable, and could be used to physically remove the dried waste for safer cleaning. In Phase II, Dentel will build mini-latrines for laboratory experiments to calculate rate limitations for water vapor flux and the energy requirements for water vaporization, as well as analyzing the ability of volatiles such as ammonia to pass through the membrane. Then he will design and run field-tests in Africa.
Human Wastes Disposal System In Situ - A Waterless Toilet Including Mini Waste Processor
Primary Investigator:
Jing Ning, Beijing Sunnybreeze Technology Inc., Beijing, China - CN
Topic:
Round:
Round 7 – November 2011
Phase:
Phase II – Fall 2013
Jing Ning of Beijing Sunnybreeze Technology Inc. in China will develop a human fecal waste disposal system that uses wind or solar power to load waste from septic tanks or cesspools into a column, where the waste dehydrates via solar energy, and then is combusted to kill remaining pathogens and reduce its volume. This system is designed to be affordable, durable, and low-maintenance, allowing for rapid, onsite waste disposal. In Phase I, while at Shijiazhuang University of Economics in China, Ning provided proof of principle that human raw sewage waste could be loaded into the facility and dried by solar evaporation. In Phase II, Ning, now with Beijing Sunnybreeze Technology Inc., will refine the design to better transport the heat generated by the solar collector using a thermal air blower, and develop a mini waste processor that uses a ball and screw mechanism to automatically transport, dry and sterilize the human waste. These components will be incorporated into a safe and affordable waterless toilet, which will be tested and further refined.
Reliable and Hygienic Pit Emptying System Using Modified Power Augers
Primary Investigator:
Robert Borden, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC, United States - US
Topic:
Round:
Round 7 – November 2011
Phase:
Phase II – Fall 2013
Robert Borden of North Carolina State University in the U.S. will develop an inexpensive method to efficiently and hygienically remove human waste from cesspits. Borden will modify readily available gasoline powered augers and PVC pipes to operate as a progressive cavity pump for filling drums or other easily transported containers. In Phase I, Borden produced and tested an inexpensive machine that could effectively remove medium- to high-viscosity waste from a range of pits with different accessibilities in South Africa. In Phase II, he will further optimize the design to enable emptying of a wider range of pits containing waste with higher solid or liquid compositions. He will also develop a method to determine the amount of waste in pits and its composition prior to emptying, and incorporate a disinfection step during waste removal. The aim is to develop a comprehensive pit emptying system involving training in pit assessments, equipment maintenance, and use, which will be tested in at least four developing regions.
Software to Identify and Quantify Pathogenic Helminth Eggs
Primary Investigator:
Blanca Jimenez Cisneros, National Autonomous University of Mexico, Cuernavaca, Mexico - MX
Topic:
Round:
Round 7 – November 2011
Phase:
Phase II – Fall 2013
Blanca Jimenez Cisneros of Mexican Autonomous National University in Mexico will develop software to automatically identify and quantify parasitic helminth eggs in wastewater. The software could provide a rapid and low-cost method for untrained personnel to test wastewater before its reuse in agriculture, thereby reducing parasitic infections in local populations. In Phase I, Cisneros generated an image database of a variety of common helminth species and developed an algorithm that could effectively identify helminth eggs from seven different species in two different water quality conditions. In Phase II, she will expand the image database to cover more species, and upgrade the software protocol to identify eggs in water with higher solid contents, such as fecal sludge and excreta. Cisneros will also develop a simple software platform and a strategy for worldwide distribution to both low- and high-income countries.
Solar Steam-based Conversion of Human Waste into Products of Commercial Value
Primary Investigator:
Naomi Halas, Rice University, Houston, TX, United States - US
Topic:
Round:
Round 7 – November 2011
Phase:
Phase II – Fall 2013
Naomi Halas and colleagues at Rice University in the U.S. will design and test a prototype sterilizer that employs metallic nanoparticles to absorb solar energy for converting water to steam sufficient for sterilization of human waste. Steam is a highly effective method of sterilization, but intensive energy and infrastructure requirements have limited its small-scale use. In Phase I, they successfully built and tested a solar steam generator-driven autoclave prototype that can quickly transfer and sterilize sufficient volumes of unprocessed human waste. In Phase II, they will adapt the technology to enable the conversion of waste into briquettes suitable for use as cooking fuel, and further develop it for field tests in Kenya.
Urintricity+++
Primary Investigator:
Ioannis Ieropoulos, University of the West of England, Bristol, United Kingdom - GB
Topic:
Round:
Round 7 – November 2011
Phase:
Phase II – Fall 2013
Ioannis Ieropoulos of the University of the West of England, Bristol in the United Kingdom will test the ability of microbial fuel cells to convert urine and sludge into electrical energy while also purifying water by killing disease-causing pathogens in the waste. This technology could enable energy recovery from urine and other waste streams in developing countries. In Phase I, he provided proof of concept that the technology could be used with urine by testing power performance, clean water output, and pathogen kill rates of different types of microbial fuel cells, as well as identifying ceramic as a promising material for construction. In Phase II, he will ready the technology for implementation in developing countries by further developing the ceramic designs for low-cost mass manufacturing and servicing, and testing their ability to destroy a wide range of pathogens and generate energy for lighting or mobile phone charging. They will also analyze water production quality. The final prototype integrated into a real toilet or urinal will be field tested initially in Durban.
Vortex Bioreactors for the Processing of Fecal Sludge and Waste Water
Primary Investigator:
Mike Allen, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Plymouth, United Kingdom - GB
Topic:
Round:
Round 7 – November 2011
Phase:
Phase II – Fall 2013
Mike Allen of Plymouth Marine Laboratory in the United Kingdom proposes to develop a low cost, vortex-based bioreactor that is driven by hand or a bicycle to separate fecal matter from waste water and at the same time introduce bactericidal agents to decontaminate the waste for recycling or safe disposal. In Phase I they designed and built a desk-top vortex bioreactor to test different biocidal agents for their ability to kill bacteria, and to be physically immobilized to enable long term use. Copper embedded onto alginate beads was the most effective and robust combination, and glass beads were shown to bind helminth eggs to enable their separation. They also characterized material flow through the vortex bioreactor to optimize performance. In Phase II, they will work to effectively incorporate the biocidal agent, which requires a high level of mixing, with a method for separating and removing helminth eggs, which requires low turbulence, into one vortex bioreactor by testing different methods of binding helminth eggs. They will also perform field testing with experienced partners, and further optimize the reactor design to reduce costs and promote easy use.
A Revolutionary Sanitation Technology with Superhydrophobic Materials
Primary Investigator:
Chunlei Guo, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY, United States - US
Topic:
Round:
Round 7 – November 2011
Phase:
Phase I
Chunlei Guo of the University of Rochester in the U.S. proposes to develop superhydrophobic materials that not only repel waste for use as a self-cleaning surface for latrines, but also can be used to capture and slough clean water into storage containers before it evaporates or is contaminated.
A Solar Steam Sterilizer for Treatment of Human Waste
Primary Investigator:
Naomi Halas, Rice University, Houston, TX, United States - US
Topic:
Round:
Round 7 – November 2011
Phase:
Phase I
Naomi Halas and colleagues at Rice University in the U.S. will design and test a prototype sterilizer that employs metallic nanoparticles to absorb solar energy for converting water to steam sufficient for sterilization of human waste. Steam is a highly effective method of sterilization, but intensive energy and infrastructure requirements have limited its small-scale use. In Phase I, they successfully built and tested a solar steam generator-driven autoclave prototype that can quickly transfer and sterilize sufficient volumes of unprocessed human waste. In Phase II, they will adapt the technology to enable the conversion of waste into briquettes suitable for use as cooking fuel, and further develop it for field tests in Kenya.
Bioelectricity Generation from Domestic Waste
Primary Investigator:
Caitlyn Butler, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, United States - US
Topic:
Round:
Round 7 – November 2011
Phase:
Phase I
Caitlyn Butler, Mark Henderson and Brad Rogers of Arizona State University in the U.S. will adapt pit latrines to harvest organic substrates and nitrogen compounds in human waste using microbial fuel cells, which will transform the biochemical energy into carbon-neutral electricity.
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