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 ")

Nuclear Batteries Based On Diamonds Last Millennia
'they just package it and ship it around to wherever people want it...' - Robert Heinlein, 1982.

MIT Researchers Predict The Future From Still Photos
'What I have in this camera is not a record of what you did just now but what will go on here in the next half hour...'- Philip K. Dick, 1964.

Artificial Muscle Material Is Self-Healing, Super Stretchy
Battletech!

Arctic Cities Crumble As Permafrost Melts
'The tapes stretch several kilometers in each direction.' - Robert Silverberg, 1970.

 

Google
  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

ibotn Toddler-Care Mini-Robot
'She's not like a machine. She's like a person. A living person.'

Nuclear Batteries Based On Diamonds Last Millennia
'they just package it and ship it around to wherever people want it...'

Eighth Sense Emotion-Responsive Cloak
'This sensitivity to mood explains the real popularity of bio-fabrics...'

British Airways To Offer An Ingestible Sensor To Passengers
The modern way to get feedback from passengers.

Unique DNA To Foil Parts Counterfeiters
'... the only molecule, a unique protein amino acid, which could not be duplicated.'

MIT Researchers Predict The Future From Still Photos
'What I have in this camera is not a record of what you did just now but what will go on here in the next half hour...'

Mini Robot Uses 2 mm Surgical Tools
'... surgical tool - blades, tweezers, probes - so fine you could just see them with the naked eye.'

Childhood Dreams Of Space Realized! Space Junk Problem Solved!
'Give the noble daydreams a rest, you preachy rookie. Astronauts are wage slaves like everyone else!'

Writhing Robotic Tentacle Uses Laser To Chop Nuke Hardware
'... long, flexible, glittering tentacles... swinging and rattling about its strange body.'

LBNP Device Not Quite 'Artificial Gravity'
'Joe got out the gravity-simulator harnesses..'

China's XPNAV 1 To Use X-Ray Pulsars For Navigation
'For a hyperspace jump, you need at least four beacons for an accurate fix.'

Artificial Muscle Material Is Self-Healing, Super Stretchy
Battletech!

Google Zero-Shot Translation Gives Star Trek Fans Hope
"This is your opponent!"

Moley Kitchen Robot Ready By 2018
'...the electric cook was stirring empty nothing in a pan, with a zeal worthy a dozen eggs.'

Tricking Cells Into Making Silicon Chips
'Fabricated by genetically engineered metal affinity bacteria...'

AI Lip Reading Better Than Human, Like HAL 9000
Nothing to worry about, until computers control most vital systems.

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.