University of South Florida


[Image courtesy: USF Professor Daniel Yeh]

Following commercialization, USF tech provides sanitation to South Africa

By Tina Meketa, University Communications and Marketing

Hundreds of elementary school students in South Africa now have access to clean water and sanitation thanks to the commercialization of technology built at USF. 

The solar-powered NEWgenerator provides off-grid sanitation technology and generates nutrients, energy and water by safely recovering them from human wastewater. It’s the first unit to be manufactured by WEC Projects since the USF Technology Transfer Office signed a licensing agreement in 2020.

Daniel Yeh, Robert Bair and Ntwanano Mandlazi

(L-R) USF Professor Daniel Yeh, USF alum and senior development engineer Robert Bair and Ntwanano Mandlazi, project manager at WEC Projects

Inventor Daniel Yeh, professor of civil and environmental engineering, and his team recently traveled to Bizana, a rural community in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa, to help launch the NEWgenerator at a school that had previously relied on pit latrines. Although there are power lines nearby, the school has no electricity due to budget constraints. It lacks the infrastructure required to build a sewer system and relies solely on rainwater for hydration. The NEWgenerator extends the school’s limited water supply by continuously recycling dirty water into clean water.

“As an engineer and an educator, I feel blessed to be in the position to witness our team’s invention make a direct improvement on the lives of the school children,” Yeh said.

It wasn’t an easy journey for Yeh and his team, which includes senior development engineer Robert Bair, who’s been working on the project since he was an undergraduate student at USF. 

“It has been an incredible opportunity to have worked on the technology since its inception. Plenty of hours, blood, sweat and tears were necessary to get us to this point. All that effort was worth it, knowing that we are making a positive impact in people’s lives," Bair said.  

Getting to Khanyisani Primary School requires a flight from Johannesburg to Durban, followed by a 3 ½-hour car ride, much of which on unpaved roads, with the final 30 minutes spent driving through tall grass.


Signage demonstrates how to properly use new flush toilets at a school in South Africa

“The region suffers from a serious water shortage due to its remote location and the NEWgenerator represents an important step forward for delivering proper sanitation to remote and underserved areas,” said Ntwanano Mandlazi, project manager at WEC Projects. “It is an effective solution for replacing dangerous pit and chemical toilets, particularly in areas where water is scarce, making it ideal for deployment across Africa in a broad range of applications including the domestic and commercial sectors.” 

The NEWgenerator was first piloted in India in 2016, with various versions installed there and in other regions of South Africa. It was funded in part by a $2 million grant awarded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation through its Reinvented Toilet program to address infrastructure problems caused by worldwide, rapid, unplanned urbanization.



This particular unit was modeled after one sent to a community in Soweto in 2021, allowing for the use of flush toilets. Since entering mass production, the NEWgenerator has been modified to reduce costs – utilizing locally made materials and adjusted for local customer requirements.

The NEWgenerator was built with remote capabilities, allowing WEC Projects to monitor the unit from Johannesburg and make repairs when needed – either sending out an engineer or training on-site school staff. It will soon be installing more units across South Africa, such as in water-stressed Cape Town.

Yeh also has a licensing agreement with India-based Elefo Biotech and is working with various industries and agencies in the U.S. to introduce the NEWgenerator to users in America. His team is in talks with disadvantaged communities across the U.S. to bring safe sanitation to challenging environments, one of which is a rural area in Alabama known to have raw sewage running through people’s yards due to impervious soil that render septic tanks ineffective.

The full interview with Mandlazi about the NEWgenerator's impact can be found here.

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