Tactical Biorefinery Turns Garbage Into Energy
The tactical biorefinery is a portable machine that can convert food waste and inorganic trash into electricity. Purdue University researchers created a unique hybrid design for the U.S. Army.
I can't resist this reference. Okay, it's not Mr. Fusion, the mass to energy converter of Back to the Future fame, but maybe it's more practical.
(Mr. Fusion from Back to the Future)
Now, thanks to this tactical biorefinery that uses garbage from the mess tent to create electricity, an army not only "marches on its stomach," it also runs its camp on it. (You know what I mean.)
(Tactical biorefinery for U.S. Army)
The tactical biorefinery uses three distinct technologies to perform its magic:
Diesel fuel is used during the first few hours of operation; then mess tent garbage is fed in. The resulting ethanol and gas displaces the diesel fuel (which continues in a very low quantity "drip").
- A bioreactor that uses enzymes and micro-organisms to turn food waste into ethanol
- A gasification unit that turns plastics, paper, and other residual waste into methane and low-grade propane and
- A modified diesel engine that can burn gas, ethanol, and diesel fuel in variable proportions.
The Purdue project initially studied the typical waste streams that soldiers produce in the field to select the best energy-conversion technologies. A biocatalytic process was chosen to deal with the food portion of the waste. The trick was to get the pH balance and temperature right for the mixture of enzymes and microorganisms the researchers selected. For plastics, wood, and other nonfood waste that can't be broken down in a bioreactor, a gasifier was developed that exposes the material to extreme heat in a low-oxygen environment.
It is hoped that the system can be shrunk down to the size of a Humvee trailer; it would be an ideal system for use in disaster-relief efforts as well as in the field by the military.
There is an interesting precursor in science fiction, if you are willing to stretch your view of what constitutes 'sf.' In his wonderful 1726 social satire Gulliver's Travels, Jonathan Swift actually writes about a project to extract energy from vegetation:
He has been eight years upon a project for extracting sunbeams out of cucumbers, which were to be put in phials hermetically sealed, and let out to warm the air in raw inclement summers. He told me, he did not doubt, that, in eight years more, he should be able to supply the governor's gardens with sunshine, at a reasonable rate: but he complained that his stock was low, and entreated me to give him something as an encouragement to ingenuity, especially since this had been a very dear season for cucumbers.
(Read more about Jonathan Swift's bio-energy)
Check out these other bio-energy articles:
From A Portable Refinery Powered by Garbage via Erasable Blueprints.
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 3/23/2007)
Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.
| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 0 )
Related News Stories -
Tiny LEDs Developed For Dust-Sized Computers
'They use sparkles to talk to each other...' - Neal Stephenson, 1995.
Seabreacher, H.G. Winter's 1939 Torpoon
'Ken lay full-length in the padded body compartment, his feet resting on the controlling bars of the directional planes, hands on the torpoon's engine levers.' - HG Winters, 1939.
Project Soli Radar Gesture Chip Now FCC Approved
'He waved his hand and the circuit switched abruptly.' - Philip K. Dick, 1955.
Implosion Fabrication Shrinks 3D Objects To Nanoscale
'Carter had watched miniaturization a hundred times...' - Isaac Asimov, 1965.
Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!)
is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for
the Invention Category that interests
you, the Glossary, the Invention
Timeline, or see what's New.
Nobe 3-Wheel Electric Vehicle Parking Like I, Robot
Spidercar, Spidercar, does whatever a spidercar does.
Michelin Self-Sealing Tires On Ford's Explorer
'...a seal of compressed plastifoam to save the air.'
Mushroom Eats Plastic, Saves Planet
Fungus Amongus, SaveUs!
Juggalo Face Paint Disrupts Facial Recognition
'... designed to foil facial recognition systems.'
Mojipic Smart Voice Vehicle Emojis
KITT, what's your response?
Unusual Twist On Woman Dates Robot
'My hearing, vision and awareness went along with that excellent imitation of a young Adonis...'
BrainNet Triple Telepathic Gaming Threat
'In the gloomy half-darkness the three idiots sat babbling.'
AVAS Noisemakers Required For EVs By EU
'...a sound tape to supply the noise of a soi-disant "[internal combustion]" engine...'
Pun Generation Via Neural Nets
'You said you wanted him to be able to distinguish between laugh-power in different gags...'
Blood Battery Robotic Fish
'With one fluid motion, it surged forward, plunged, and was gone.'
Lightyear One Solar-Powered Electric Car (Design By Heinlein)
'It drew its power from six square yards of sunpower screens on its low curved roof.'
'Agression Detectors' Don't Work When Spying On Students
'The professional agitators had also learned how to modulate their voices below the danger level...'
Mining Of Golden Asteroid Foretold In 1898 Science Fiction
'This must be a golden planet—this little asteroid.'
Miners! NASA Wants To License RASSOR Excavator
'The borers had been dismantled and packed away.'
Bee+ Robobee Now With Four Wings
'It was a tiny thing, scarcely more than an inch and a half in length...'
CNSILK Robotic Spider Builder
'We could certainly spin a web right through the Solar System, if we can think of a good use for one.'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories