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 -
Stick-On Tape Speakers, As Predicted By Bruce Sterling
Flexible tape speakers, someday.
Has Climate Change Already Been Solved By Aliens?
'I had explained," said Nessus, "that our civilisation was dying in its own waste heat.' - Larry Niven, 1970.
Skin Electronics 3D Printed
'June's body is a tracery of lambent lines, like some arcane capillary circuitry...' - Paul Di Filippo, 1985
Super-Resolution Microscopy Provides '4D' Views
View the magnified interior of living cells.
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.
Sleeep PRO Earplug For Maximum Rest
'Merton... placed the electrodes of the sleep-inducer on his forehead.'
Inspired By Japan, Nap Pods For Hajj
It's always a good time for a nap.
Amphibio 3D Printed Gill Shirt
'... we can descend and live down there at one of those year-round aquatic resorts.'
How Do You Put An Asteroid Into Earth Orbit? Carefully!
'...she would have to be coaxed by another series of pats into a circular orbit.'
PD Aerospace Space Plane By 2023
'The sleek, tapered space shuttle lay immobile upon the private landing field...'
Foldimate Folds Your Clothes Perfectly
Look ma, my room is clean! I can hear you now.
Robots Help People Get Dressed, As Predicted In 1931
Yes, people of the future, robots will dress you.
International Space Station Leak Plugged - With Finger
'These tag-alongs search out stray leaks.'
Robot Snake Flies, Fights Fires
Just a prototype, but still amazing.
IPAL Chinese Robot Babysitter
'But Nanny is different...'
ZKZM-500 LASER Assault Rifle
'The Iranian reached back into the locker and got a pair of laserifles.'
LA Subway Scanner, As Seen In 'Total Recall'
'I'm afraid to tell you this Mr. Quaid, but you have suffered a schizoed embolism...'
Sion Electric Car Covered With Solar Panels
'It drew its power from six square yards of sunpower screens on its low curved roof.'
PAL-V Liberty Flying Helicopter Car
'...lifted themselves to skimming flight upon whirling helicopters."
Space Drones - UK's Effective Space To Launch Rocket Tugs
'Twenty rocket tugs towed it from its Earth hangar out into space.'
DIY Autonomous Robot Detects Trash
'The search-bug detached itself and rolled forward.'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories