"The idea would be if we could treat the waste on site, in real time and make it safe to handle, then that would be a great step for the protection of public health in many of these areas," he added.
Linden, who is also a professor of environmental engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder, said that in many communities around the world, the practice of maintaining and emptying toilet latrines and pits was unsanitary and unsafe.
The World Banks says on average, poor sanitation costs countries 1.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP); in India, for example, it costs $54 billion a year. Furthermore, 2.4 billion people across the planet, "do not have access to basic sanitation," according to the World Health Organisation.
The prototype toilet designed by Linden and his team is suitable for a family of four. Parabolic dishes are used to harness the sunlight on what Sol-Char describe as a "small focal point."
Fiber optic cables transmit this light to a "reaction chamber" where faecal matter is turned into usable by-products. Urine, once treated, can also be used as a fertilizer.
"From four to six people it's actually not that much that comes out – it might be one hundred grams, a few hundred grams, that come out of that, but as you collect it over time you can create value," Linden said.