A new invention, which is being funded by Bill Gates, aims to filter toilet waste back into "drinkable" water.
According to Manchester University's Sarah Haigh, who is an expert in nanotechnology, which is the science of manipulating atoms in matter, it could make waste water from toilets safe to drink.
The innovation could transform the lives of millions of people in the third world.
Haigh believes a new range of materials could extract energy from human waste.
Although the result may not be bottled mineral water, the researcher says the results could be the difference between life-and-death in regions without clean water.
"I get a lot of comments about the research I do. I don't mind people making jokes as long as they're clean ones," the Daily Mail quoted her as saying.
"There has been a lot of research into biofuels. There is a lot of energy already present in human waste. Nano-scale materials mean that you can harvest the hydrogen and turn it into hydrozene - which is basically rocket fuel," she said.
She believes that a scaffold device holding a mixture of bacteria and tiny metal nano-particles will react with the water to extract useful hydrogen, with the remainder filtered again to produce clean water.
Their idea for an inexpensive fuel-producing, water-cleaning device for the developing world, beat more than 2,000 other proposals.
And the group stand to receive a further 1 million dollars from the Gates next year if they can demonstrate the chemical reactions they propose can actually work.
The Microsoft founder - one of the world's richest men - has promised to sink his fortune on combating worldwide poverty.
The researchers plan to have a prototype ready to demonstrate by 2013.
"The phrase 'off to spend a penny' is used in polite society to refer to a visit to the lavatory," Haigh said.
We plan to turn this essential everyday outgoing into an investment by developing novel materials that convert natural waste into a useable resource.
"This technology will be particularly important for remote locations in developing countries and will have the added benefits of reduced pollution and lower waste disposal costs," she added.