South Africa: Chris Buckley - Big Heart, Big Beard and Big Ideas

analysis

Chris Buckley was a chemistry boffin who charmed billionaires, reinvented toilets, toyed with 'uricity' and trained a new generation of sanitation engineers.

People often fret about money being flushed down the toilet.

Professor Chris Buckley was more worried about the water itself. Why do we still contaminate and flush away so much clean water? And could there be a better use for all those number ones and number twos?

In between building up an archive of freeze-dried faecal samples, converting urine into fertiliser and persuading billionaire philanthropists to fund his water conservation research, Buckley helped to put Durban on the map as a centre of global innovation - by redesigning toilets to save water, reuse human waste and reduce environmental pollution.

In 2020, the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) chemical engineering boffin also collaborated with a group of English researchers on a novel pilot project in a local shack settlement to produce "uricity" (that is, electricity produced from the biodegradation of urine).

Buckley, 72, who died from cancer on 27 May, was involved in a wide range of local and international collaborations, including a global initiative to "reinvent the toilet", during a research and teaching career...

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