Bill Gates once dominated the tech industry, and until recently was the richest man in the world (until Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos took the crown this past year). Now he’s set his sights on a new project: revolutionizing the toilet.

Know more in the last two decades for being a humanitarian and philanthropist, Gates, along with his wife Melinda, are attempting to solve a problem that affects more than 2 billion people worldwide—access to clean water. In studies by the Center for Disease Control, more than 88% of deaths around the globe are caused by diseases brought on by unsanitary living conditions. These diseases kill more children than malaria, measles, and AIDS combined.


Since 2011, Gates has been awarding grants through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's “Reinvent the Toilet Challenge,” with the goal being to come up with new ways of handling toilet waste that doesn’t involve continuously pumping water in and out of complicated pipelines. Most areas of the world that are affected by unsafe water lack the infrastructure to support such systems. Gates, instead, is looking for chemical solutions that neutralize potential disease-carrying agents “so that even Indian cities that will never spend $1 billion can have a toilet as good as a Western one,” said Gates in a recent interview with psychologist Steven Pinker. In the same interview, Gates stated that it was his “bullheadedness” that he developed while at the head of Microsoft. There’s no doubt that Gates has a high probability of succeeding at something if he puts his mind to it.

Multiple grants worth millions of dollars have been awarded since 2011. A “nano-membrane toilet” design was first awarded $710,000 in 2012 and then received even more money at the end of 2016. It is now being tested for effectiveness in Ghana.

Could you be the next person to reinvent the toilet with Bill Gates?