DARPA Seeks Porta-Reactor Technology for Troop Poop Fuel


Image: Flickr, Jurvetson

Alert Pentagon-watchers who stumbled upon the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) solicitation SN-10-37 looked past the official title "Request for Information (RFI) on Deployable Reactor Technologies for Generating Power and Logistic Fuels," and saw deep into DARPA's soul. DARPA is looking for portable nuclear reactors that can turn troop poop into fuel. It appears that Wired first translated the technical jargon: "approaches to fuel production should accommodate a broad range of hydrogen and carbon feedstocks (water/seawater, biomass, waste materials, etc.)" into the catch-phrase "troop poop porta-reactor."

DARPA is looking for companies, universities, or other institutions to contribute ideas to advance the technology of portable nuclear reactors that could generate electricity and fuels for bases far from the grid. Wired points out two major advantages: they calculate that fuel use in Afghanistan costs $45 per gallon at point-of-use, with an average daily consumption of 22 gallons per soldier. Additionally, the army pays now for fuel to burn human fecal matter, a major logistical issue for remote bases.

DARPA's specifications are strict. They want:

  • "design concepts that are inherently safe,"
  • "do not produce waste products which would contribute to proliferation problems," and
  • "total energy output of the generator design should support an electrical load of 5 to 10 MW in addition to producing 15,000 gallons/day of fuel."

If you have a good idea, you have until 30 April 2010 to follow the submission instructions at the DARPA RFI for troop poop powered porta-reactors (looking at you C. Fong!). Perhaps the military can bring poo-power to new levels of utility and portability.

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