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 -
Aireal Haptics Inching Towards Holodeck Experience
How to feel something that isn't there?
Control Your Dog Remotely
Your mutt will handle like a neodog with this advanced hardware and software.
Elon Musk Creates Parts With Gestures Like Iron Man
For some men, tomorrow is too long to wait for the future.
Preorder Recon Jet - It's Heavy Duty Glass
'All displays are thrown on a mirror in front of your forehead...'- Robert Heinlein, 1959.
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.
Haute Cuisine On International Space Station
'The gas gave sufficient heat for the culinary apparatus...'
Tongue Mouse Created By Valve Engineer
'He pressed hard with his tongue against his right upper first molar.'
K5 Autonomous Data Machine The Future Of Mall Security
''Halt!' A robot guard appeared...'
RF Safe-Stop Shuts Cars Off
'...a police control-override.'
Army's New Bird-Like Surveillance UAV
'The prototype blue-bellied, gray-backed tracer-bird with the wide-angle eye...'
Honda's Tumblebug - The UNI-CUB beta
'A tumblebug does not give a man dignity...'
NASA's LADEE Enters Lunar Orbit
'... dust normally on the surface picks up and keeps a charge.'
3D Printing An Entire Car
"... Almost as good as the original it was printed from."
Aldebaran Robot Talks Like C3PO - Almost
'See Vee Threepio - Vee for versatility - at your service...'
Google's Skin Tattoo Lie Detector
'Three and a half centimetres in diameter, permanently fixed in the centre of his forehead.'
inFORM Dynamic Shape Output Device
Like that pushpin device you remember, but supercharged.
Owlet Vitals, The Future Of Baby Monitoring
'In every diaper there is a fine copper wire...'
Robert Heinlein, Your Personal Electric Helicopter Will Be Ready In 2016
"They were half way home when a single flyer, hopping free in a copter harness, approached the little parade."
WildCat Runs Faster Than You, Untethered
'...moving with such drifting ease that it was like a single solid cloud of black-grey smoke blown at him in silence.' Almost.
HiBot's ACM-R5H Robot Video Shows Graceful Terminator-Style Swimming
'No! No! Aaaaaaarrrrrrgh!'
tDCS Jumpstarts Your Future
'We invented a scanner that can change the labyrinthine neural connections of the brain by tiny electronic impulses...'.
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories