Utah State University Ph.D candidate Randy Hurd sheepishly admits he’s fallen victim to the backsplash made possible by him and a urinal, and now he’s teaming up with a USU professor to understand the phenomenon and improve upon materials already out there to prevent it.
In the Splash Lab on campus, Hurd and assistant professor Tadd Truscott have an elaborate set-up to simulate the male urethra and and the a not-too-distant urinal to study the effectiveness of a device to prevent urine from splashing back.
Known as “the black hole” for its color and the concept of holding fluid in, the device is made of ABS material, a strong and durable plastic, and USU researchers are experimenting with the height, spacing and diameter of the tiny pillars on the device to prevent backsplash.
They know this device has been developed by companies before.
“But I don’t think any real investigation has been done, so we we’re curious about how efficient are they and is there an ideal state, and I think that was one of the most interesting things,” Hurd said. “Can we optimize this with this ‘black hole scenario’ so absolutely nothing comes out?”
The two USU researchers don’t want to give away the dimensions of their device — it’s patent pending — but they maintain it’s unique from similar devices.
“We’ve systematically identified the optimal conditions for that, and we found a case where splash is negligible,” Hurd said. “Ours reduce splash by 1,000 times better than a flat surface; at some point, you just can’t measure it, and the amount of splash is not important.”
Hurd and Truscott’s research is more than just trying to improve on current backsplash prevention method.
“We’re trying to understand the physics of what’s going on,” Hurd said.
They already completed a study on backsplash, which found that men can prevent backsplash by standing closer to the urinal or aiming at a lower angle of 20 degrees or less. The research on a backsplash prevention device expands on that.
“We’re just interested in reducing (backsplash) in public urinals and hospitals for cleanliness issues,” Truscott said. “Urine is sterile in healthy people; and in unhealthy people it’s not and in addition, it’s an extremely good place for bacteria to grow.”
The device for backsplash isn’t just a concept for public urinals, Truscott explained — it can be applied to medical and industrial applications, too. Hospitals often have restrooms inside surgery facilities for doctors on long procedures.
“I think the study of what happens when someone uses the restroom is studied, but maybe not in depth enough, so the idea of being able to remove splash completely from anything in a setting like that is really important, at least in a hospital,” Truscott said. “There are all of these considerations all kinds of safety ways to get rid of this, but it might just be nice to have an inherent, no-splash sort of material, then it’s even safer for use. Every fluid is going to have different properties, so this would only work for certain types of fluids.”