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 ")

Graphene Cytobot - Cyborg Bacterial Spores May Help Astronauts
'[It] had not yet objected to being made over into a portion of an electronic system... '- Philip K. Dick, 1964.

Coleus LED 'Skylight' Dispenses Natural Sunlight Indoors
'How do they work it so that the sky is visible at every level of the city?'- Stanislaw Lem, 1961.

iSkin On-Body Touch Sensors
'Three rows of four colored dots appeared on the heel of my left hand.'- John Varley, 1992.

Skin Wearable Harvests Power With Triboelectric Effect
'He had tightened the chest to gain maximum pumping action...'- Frank Herbert, 1965.

 

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

eMotionButterfly Ultralight Robot From Festo
'Artificial butterflies darted along invisible beams...'

Graphene Cytobot - Cyborg Bacterial Spores May Help Astronauts
'[It] had not yet objected to being made over into a portion of an electronic system... '

XM82 Personal Flamethrower Now In Development
'Skeletons in tatters. Burned by a flesh gun'

Delightful Plen2 Mirror Robot - The Anti-Terminator
Time for fun, Will Robinson!

LiquiGlide Will Be Everywhere
'They poured the remnants of eggs out of their frictionless cups...'

US Customs Now Doing Facial Recognition At DC Airport
Are you who you say you are?

How Many Systems In That Galactic Empire Now?
'An Empire to twenty million stellar systems...'

Petman Robot Pushes Itself To The Limit
'There was the butler robot, hard at work, his copper face expressionless...'

Coleus LED 'Skylight' Dispenses Natural Sunlight Indoors
'How do they work it so that the sky is visible at every level of the city?'

UR3 Robot At Work On Copies Of Itself
'I don't mean that you should construct this ultra-microrobot with your own fingers, of course...'

3D Printing 'Terminator T-1000-Style'
Not quite 'a mimetic polyalloy...'

Norlin Shoe Drone Robot UAV In-Store Delivery Thing
'Robot-salesmen were everywhere, gesturing, pleading, shrilling.'

Bridge-MINDER Repair Robot
'The repair robots had started out on their rounds...'

Super Ball Bot Tensegrity Robot For Solar System Exploration
'Each leg in turn acted as a pivot around which the creature whirled its body...'

iSkin On-Body Touch Sensors
'Three rows of four colored dots appeared on the heel of my left hand.'

Britain To Build Spaceport, First In Europe
'The space-ports at the three great cities...'

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.