Tactical Biorefinery: Eats Garbage, Generates Power

The US Army asked for this, but it sounds like it could work anywhere. It is a diesel generator that can suck up all kinds of garbage: paper, plastic, Styrofoam, cardboard, woodchips and food waste. "This is a very promising technology," says Michael Ladisch, a Purdue professor of agricultural and biological engineering who leads the project,"In a very short time, it should be ready for use in the military, and I think it could be used outside the military." According to Purdue, "The tactical biorefinery first separates organic food material from residual trash, such as paper, plastic, Styrofoam and cardboard. The food waste goes to a bioreactor where industrial yeast ferments it into ethanol, a "green" fuel. Residual materials go to a gasifier where they are heated under low-oxygen conditions and eventually become low-grade propane gas and methane. The gas and ethanol are then combusted in a modified diesel engine that powers a generator to produce electricity.

Ladisch and Warner said the machine eventually could be deployed in disaster situations, similar to Hurricane Katrina, or at any crisis location where people are stranded without power. Emergency crews could then use the machine to turn debris such as woodchips into much-needed electricity, Warner said. "

The refinery also could provide supplementary power for factories, restaurants or stores, Ladisch said.

"At any place with a fair amount of food and scrap waste the biorefinery could help reduce electricity costs, and you might even be able to produce some surplus energy to put back on the electrical grid," he said.

The system is designed to run on diesel oil for several hours until the gasifier and the bioreactor begin to produce fuel, researchers said. They say also that it pollutes less than diesel fuel, and produces 90% more energy than it consumes. ::CNET via ::Engadget

Tags: Recycling

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