This important research has been two years and thousands of flushes in the making.
Scientists at a university in Utah have been testing out a vacuum-assisted toilet that is about half as loud as current commercial airplane loos.
As it turns out, almost nothing has changed in the design and engineering of plane toilets for over twenty-five years. According to Science Daily, the reason for this is because they use significantly less water than a regular toilet and need a partial vacuum to compensate.
In the air, this means that the air is pulled at nearly half the speed of sound which is incredibly loud when it hits a disturbance in the flow – such as a bend in the pipe.
While this may not have been a huge issue in the past, modern plane cabins are quieter, so the almighty flush in the middle of a long-haul flight is far more noticeable.
To address the problem, the researchers are Brigham Young University tackled three key areas – the peak noise level when the flush valve opens, the intermediate noise level when the valve is completely open and the final noise level peak when the valve closes.
Extra pipe was added to increase the distance between the bowl and the valve – this transformed ninety-degree angle of the pipe to a more gradual bend.
Test results have shown that the noise levels of these toilets have dropped up to 16 decibels during the valve opening phase and 5 – 10 decibels when it’s completely opened.
“It’s a great mix between physics and engineering. The toilet is much quieter.” said Michael Rose, lead author of the vacuum-assisted tech publication Proceedings of Meetings on Acoustics.
At the present time the team is working to make their test toilet a reality. One of the best parts is that they can be retrofitted onto existing plane toilets, as it’s just the pipes that need changing.
We expect this to also be a big hit in other public transport restrooms, as well as places like campgrounds that are on water restrictions.