Change Alley

information, opinion, conversation

Portable Refinery Powered by Garbage

with 2 comments

Researchers at Indiana’s Purdue University have developed a portable machine that turns a variety of food waste and inorganic trash into electricity. Despite being small enough to transport in a 20-foot shipping container, the “tactical refinery”, intended initially for use by the military and disaster recovery agencies, is three technologies in one:

  • 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
  • a modified diesel engine that can burn gas, ethanol, and diesel fuel in variable proportions.

The clever part is how the various components of the system are integrated. Kick-started by diesel, once warmed up the machine is ‘fed’ with garbage. The resulting ethanol and gas gradually displace the diesel fuel, which is reduced to a minimum drip. The main by-product is ash that needs to be removed every few days.

Once the developers achieve their objective of scaling the system down by 60%, I can visualise every survivivalist wanting one of these.


Written by Pete Smith

May 5, 2007 at 8:29 am

2 Responses

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  1. And when a cold snap comes along they’ll be busy consuming …. to create waste. 😉


    May 5, 2007 at 8:48 am

  2. I know I want one, maybe two.

    the Grit

    the Grit

    May 6, 2007 at 7:58 pm

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