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:

  • 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.
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").

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 |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 0 )

Related News Stories - (" Engineering ")

Untethered Drone Gets Wireless Power
'We'll use my 'broomstick'.' - Robert Heinlein, 1942.

How Can Amazon Patent A Voice-Controlled Drone?
''Tight mid-shot...' he told it.' Karen Traviss, 2004.

'North Sense' Wearable Piercing From Cyborg Nest
'The fingers opened from the many-scaled stellarimeter grafted onto his palm.' - Samuel R. Delany, 1966.

Wearables For Animals Totally A Thing
'Twin deformities on either side of his skull had been engineered to house sensor units.' - William Gibson, 1981.


  Web TechNovelgy.com   

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.






Current News

GyroGlove Idea For Parkinson's Was Suggested In 1926
'The gyroscope was revolving at the rate of three thousand revolutions a minute, and the slight humming was hardly noticeable...'

Otto Self-Driving Truck Kit Delivers Budweiser Beer
'Trucks gulped packages and scurried like beetles...'

Airnest Drone Flight Logging Tool
'He reached to unsnap the cartograph from his belt.'

Untethered Drone Gets Wireless Power
'We'll use my 'broomstick'.'

ESA Plans Akon Projectile To Europa ala Jules Verne
'... might [it] not be possible to project a shot up to the moon?'

Transparent OLED TV By Panasonic
It's the look of things to come.

Shape-Memory Metal Transforms Millions Of Times
'Annealed in any shape for a time, and codified, the structure of that shape is retained down to the molecules.'

Advertising Drones Hover Over Traffic In Mexico
'Blurbflies are allowd to travel the streets, buzzing their adverts alive and direct...'

How Can Amazon Patent A Voice-Controlled Drone?
''Tight mid-shot...' he told it.'

'North Sense' Wearable Piercing From Cyborg Nest
'The fingers opened from the many-scaled stellarimeter grafted onto his palm.'

proCover Smart Sock Prosthetic Limb Enhancement
'Series of chemelectric afferent nerve-analogues, which permitted it to gauge to an ounce...'

Robots And AIs Will Replace Humans At 7 Percent Of U.S. Jobs
'And Mike took on endless new jobs.'

Human Doctors Still Better Than Computers
'Nowadays surgery was normally done by autodocs...'

FEDOR Humanoid Robot To Join Russians In Space
Am enjoying view of Russian robot.

BMW Self-Balancing Motorcycle - Never Put Feet On Road
'He had never ridden any motorized device that lacked onboard steering and balance systems...'

MicroTug Is A Micro Robot Beast
'And it had been dragging something...'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.