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Power Plant Converts Fruit and Veggie Waste Into Natural Gas For Cars

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the mr.-fusion-II dept.

Earth 118

Zothecula writes "Some readers might remember the Mr. Fusion unit in Back to the Future that Doc Brown fills with household garbage, including a banana peel and some beer, to power the iconic time-traveling DeLorean. While we're still some way from such direct means of running our cars on table scraps, researchers at Fraunhofer have developed a pilot plant that ferments the waste from wholesale fruit and veg markets, cafeterias and canteens to make methane, which can be used to power vehicles."

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Good idea, expand it to cover more fule sources. (3, Insightful)

Kenja (541830) | more than 2 years ago | (#38996319)

Lots (around 40%) of harvested fruits and veg' rot in the field because the US consumer wont buy imperfect produce. Seems like a lot of potential fule out there.

Expand it to cover more fuel sources. (4, Insightful)

Tekfactory (937086) | more than 2 years ago | (#38996439)

The Parent post everstates the case, a lot of imperfect produce becomes tomato sauce, potato flakes, strawberry puree, applesauce, carrot juice, etc.

There is a lot of agricultural waste, some scratch and dent from retail, and a LOT of uneaten or wasted food from restaurants.

I expect there are some enzyme or bacteria treatments that can cause this mash to release more starches or sugars before the fermentation phase begins.

Re:Expand it to cover more fuel sources. (3, Interesting)

gnick (1211984) | more than 2 years ago | (#38996585)

I don't know how common it is, but a lot of the produce that isn't sold in my local market is donated to local animal shelters. And yes, many consumers prefer the artificially colored/waxed/preserved stuff that is so much prettier than the rest, but I can't believe there's anything like 40% "waste".

Re:Expand it to cover more fuel sources. (4, Informative)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#38996785)

I live in the middle of an agriINDUSTRY area. Most of the agricultural waste is left to rot in the fields. To bring it to some place where it could be processed into fuel would consume fuel. Further, much of this waste is recycled into the soil by insects, worms, fungi and bacteria to become fertilizer for the next crop (lest the soil become exhausted.)

It's a neat idea, but you can use any hydrocarbon waste for this process - cardboard, paper or wood scraps.

Re:Expand it to cover more fuel sources. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38996853)

It becomes a turtleneck when you shrug for all you gets the hose again.

What about home plant waste material? (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 2 years ago | (#38997037)

I've recently made "juicing" a large part of my diet. I watched the excellent documentary, "Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead" which was pretty inspiring.

I got a Breville Ikon juicer and it works wonders...but I'd been trying to think what to do with all the dry pulp that comes out of it.

I'd been thinking to try to save some of it, particularly the veggie stuff from the green juices...and maybe boiling it to make vegetable stock....I don't know anything about composting, but was thinking to research and explore that, to see if it was viable to try to compost all of this stuff, and use it for fertilizer for my garden this spring.

Anyone out there know much about reusing plant 'waste' or leftovers from the home in such a manner? Links? Suggestions?

Re:What about home plant waste material? (2)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 2 years ago | (#38997265)

Simplest thing to do: put the pulp back into the juice. Alternatively, let it compost. Takes about a year to fully compost, but as long as you make sure to ONLY put organic (or at least thoroughly washed) produce into compost, you get some excellent soil back.

Re:What about home plant waste material? (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 2 years ago | (#38998665)

Simplest thing to do: put the pulp back into the juice.

Well, I was on a 30 day juice fast...only juice, no pulp.

Going forward, I eat (sensibly now), and I like smoothies, but I also like to juice, without the pulp, I can squeeze even more veggie/fruit micro nutrients into my diet, that I could not do eating all of them...this is in addition to normal eating of veggies and fruits too whole or blended.

Re:What about home plant waste material? (2)

Dahamma (304068) | more than 2 years ago | (#38997283)

It's absolutely possible to compost it. You can even compost things like coffee grounds (with the paper filter if you use one) and tea bags. Pretty much any solid vegetable matter, really (including breads/cereals). The only thing I'd hesitate to compost is tomatoes, unless you *really* want a lot of tomato plants in your garden (also, you increase the risk of introducing some tomato plant viruses into your soil).

Re:What about home plant waste material? (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 2 years ago | (#38998739)

I was asking about the composting thing, because, aside from being able to pronounce the word, I know nothing about the act.

Are there any good DIY posts ya'll know of on how to do it, or build whatever apparatus you might need?

I see one person responded with something to do with a worm farm...not sure if that was joking or not, but not so much wanting to raise worms, but just something to make soil to use as fertilizer, which is what I guess composting is....

Re:What about home plant waste material? (1)

Nexus7 (2919) | more than 2 years ago | (#38997525)

For convenient hot composting, you could use an indoor electric composter. It does need some care and feeding though.

Re:What about home plant waste material? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38997771)

Just get a VitaMix instead, problem solved, plus more healthy you get all the fiber.

Re:What about home plant waste material? (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 2 years ago | (#38998715)

Just get a VitaMix instead, problem solved, plus more healthy you get all the fiber.

Actually, I do have a Vitamix too....once I got off the juice only fast, I've gone back to using it for smoothies and soups...and soon, to start experimenting with grinding my own whole wheat flour from wheat berries into bread...

But like I stated above...the juicer still has a place in my daily diet...I can eat whole foods from Vitamix or regular cooking...but with the juicer, I can increase my intake even more of the micronutrients in fruits and veggies....and I also get to have fun coming up with some very nifty and unique flavors with the juice....

Re:What about home plant waste material? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38998689)

I've recently made "juicing" a large part of my diet.

Why hello Barry Bonds!

Re:Expand it to cover more fuel sources. (1)

itsenrique (846636) | more than 2 years ago | (#38996929)

Well, methane is a greenhouse gas more potent than C02. Also I believe its relatively clean burning itself compared to cardboard, paper, or wood scraps.

Re:Expand it to cover more fuel sources. (5, Informative)

bigmo (181402) | more than 2 years ago | (#38997235)

Actually high cellulose content products don't work much at all. You need a high nitrogen content material (poop is the preferred material, ideally bird stuff because it contains the urine as well). There is a particular ratio of carbon to nitrogen that works best and by using various combinations of poop and different vegetable matter you get a mixture that gives the most methane and the least CO2. Vegetable leaf matter by itself will work, slowly, but produces a much higher CO2 to methane ratio so is not very useful for combustion. I assume that actual fruit and vegatables have higher nitrogen content than the leaves.

I built a few methane digesters in the 70's and I can tell you that it's not as easy as it sounds to actually produce useful amounts of methane. There is a lot of continuous mixing that has to happen or thick viscous mats form and keep things from working right. This consumes energy. You also can't really compress methane much without using more energy to compress it than you get out of it.

Of course if it's armageddon and you have lots of pig poop & crazy midgets to run things, this could actually work.

Re:Expand it to cover more fuel sources. (1)

Medievalist (16032) | more than 2 years ago | (#38997673)

At the industrial scale these problems can be conquered with modern technology. Cellulosic ethanol is readily achievable, far more efficiently than (for example) nuclear fission, and what's left over from that process can be made into methane or plastics.

At the home scale, though, you're right. Until the patents wear out on the microbes, biodigestion of cellulose is corporate territory.

Re:Expand it to cover more fuel sources. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38998195)

I'm aware of a local digester operation where the substrate has high polymer content. It also limits the amount of urine as a percentage of the substrate. The preference is for drier feeds for the raw material, since this limits ammonia production. The operator plans to install more generation (currently at 3 megawatt) and an ammonia stripper to improve efficiencies.

http://tinyurl.com/7je6vbk

Re:Expand it to cover more fuel sources. (2)

Medievalist (16032) | more than 2 years ago | (#38997857)

Most of the agricultural waste is left to rot in the fields. To bring it to some place where it could be processed into fuel would consume fuel.

Dr. Diesel invented his engine so that it could be fueled by the crops it tended. The first demonstration engine ran on peanut oil. Fueling your vehicles is a marginal overhead cost when you're generating vehicle fuel.

And if it's all carbon neutral who cares?

Re:Expand it to cover more fuel sources. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38996823)

What kind of animal shelters are these, for sheep, cows and pigs? Haven't really seen one of those before... Haven't seen too many cats or dogs that eat brussel sprouts, turnips, leeks, etc., either.

Petting zoos/farms generally don't count, because even though they get their animals the same way, too (rescues, castoffs, etc), they're not constantly needing to replace them...

Re:Expand it to cover more fuel sources. (1)

gnick (1211984) | more than 2 years ago | (#38997087)

These are wild animals, not typical adoption shelters. You can toss a hungry bear pretty much anything and be assured that he'll eat it.

Re:Expand it to cover more fuel sources. (1)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | more than 2 years ago | (#38997905)

One of their favorites strangely is the bear claw [wikipedia.org] . Old stale ones from a bakery where they were going to toss any way work great for bear baiting. I think it is the almond and dried fruit sent that attracts them the most.

Re:Expand it to cover more fuel sources. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38997209)

are they being torn apart? what kind of heavy petting zoo are you talking about here?!

Re:Expand it to cover more fuel sources. (1)

Muad'Dave (255648) | more than 2 years ago | (#38997359)

Our dogs _love_ green beans - so much that you can't even say the word 'green' without them jumping up and down with excitement. They get them on their kibble every night. They also adore carrots - can't say that word around them, either.

Re:Expand it to cover more fuel sources. (1)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | more than 2 years ago | (#38997843)

Agreed because there are always people looking to make a buck like with "baby carrots" [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Good idea, expand it to cover more fule sources (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38996465)

Yes, you'd have to be a fule not to us all that biomass.

Re:Good idea, expand it to cover more fule sources (2)

Xphile101361 (1017774) | more than 2 years ago | (#38996469)

Does it rot in the field, providing fertilizer for the next generation of crops and thus reducing the overall costs due to the fact so much artificial fertilizer doesn't need to be used? It isn't waste if it is actually being used for something.

Re:Good idea, expand it to cover more fule sources (3, Interesting)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#38996819)

Does it rot in the field, providing fertilizer for the next generation of crops and thus reducing the overall costs due to the fact so much artificial fertilizer doesn't need to be used? It isn't waste if it is actually being used for something.

Yes. The stalks, top leafs, roots, unripe or spoiled produce becomes food for the next crop, usually some other crop in a rotation. There's a lot of science behind this, too, as some crops enrich the soil, f'risnstance with Nitrogen, for the next crop which is more dependent upon it (usually something leafy) as an example.

Re:Good idea, expand it to cover more fule sources (1)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | more than 2 years ago | (#38997955)

The more responsible farmers around me will rotate between soy beans and corn as the soy beans (any legumes [wikipedia.org] for that matter) are nitrogen fixers [wikipedia.org] which the corn really depletes from the soil.

Re:Good idea, expand it to cover more fule sources (2)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 2 years ago | (#38996487)

But when they rot in the field, the nutrients go back into the soil. If you plan on collecting all this fruits and vegetables, in order to capture the gases from them rotting, you also have to have a plan for returning the compost back to the fields. Not saying it's impossible, but can you get more natural gas from these things that it takes to transport them back and forth between the field wherever the gas is harvested?

Re:Good idea, expand it to cover more fule sources (4, Informative)

Dasher42 (514179) | more than 2 years ago | (#38996773)

Unfortunately the chemicals that industrial agriculture uses interferes with the nutrient cycle that you're thinking of. Because everything other than the plant of interest is treated as something to be killed off with insecticides, fungicides, etc., the soil microbes are killed off, and the survivors are in an imbalanced ecological state which means that they're more likely to act in ways not helpful to the crop. It all leads back to dependency on oil-based fertilizers and pesticides while the soil is little more than a medium to hold the plant upright.

Otherwise, your solution would fit right in.

Re:Good idea, expand it to cover more fule sources (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 2 years ago | (#38996649)

And that is a reason why we cannot optimize the use of our resources. For the most part wasted food when decaid will just produce carbon back into the atmosphere anyways why not get some energy out of it first.

Re:Good idea, expand it to cover more fule sources (2)

jamstar7 (694492) | more than 2 years ago | (#38997357)

This is nothing new. People have been using biogas in India for ages. I first learned about it over 30 years ago. The Indians use mostly manure, but any organic material can be used, the more plant products you use, the more biogas you get.

There's a book from 1980 called "The Mother Earth News Handbook of Homemade Power" that goes into it (and other 'green' technologies that work well on small scales) that goes into greater detail. You can find it for 4-5 bucks on bookfinder.com

Re:Good idea, expand it to cover more fule sources (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38997811)

Its 40%-70% depending on the farm, the crop, and impact on weather and pests. The amount of wasted produce in America is greatly disturbing. The 40% number is the average amount of produce which is 100% safe and ediable, which has some minor flaw which causes shoppers to pass it over. Basically it means American shoppers needlessly pay 55%, on average, high prices for produce than the supply allows.

Re:Good idea, expand it to cover more fule sources (1)

softwareGuy1024 (2564569) | more than 2 years ago | (#38999859)

It may seem that way, but consider also that if the value of produce sinks too low, it is a hardship on farmers. I think there are actually quota systems in place to prevent this from happening. So may not just be picky consumers, but also, the farm may be selling all that they are allowed to sell (and naturally sell the best). I am not an expert on this by an means, but have heard this before, can anyone confirm?

Re:Good idea, expand it to cover more fule sources (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38997859)

Yeah its the American's fault, people in Europe love mishapen brown fruit. This is flamebait!

Anyway I agree the best varieties are the ones selected for flavor not shipping/color and are homegrown.

Re:Good idea, expand it to cover more fule sources (1)

Khashishi (775369) | more than 2 years ago | (#38998327)

There's plenty of waste at every stage of production. Just look through a grocery store's dumpster or compactor some time. You'll be amazed at what goes in there.

better use (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 2 years ago | (#38996353)

Rather than using the methane in cars would be to run it directly into an electrical generation plant. More efficient. Local landfills are collecting the methane, one is uses it to power generators and the other uses the methane to heat city schools.

Re:better use (2)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#38996865)

Rather than using the methane in cars would be to run it directly into an electrical generation plant. More efficient. Local landfills are collecting the methane, one is uses it to power generators and the other uses the methane to heat city schools.

A friend of mine has designed landfills for Natural Gas production and recovery -- peak production in 50 years, with a life span of about 100 years. Not huge amounts, but as you say, sufficient for a small community or a local industrial park is possible with the proper planning.

Much more of this can be done, if people would get their community leaders to plan how waste is processed and disposed of, rather than the out-of-sight-out-of-mind most people adopt.

Re:better use (1)

ChumpusRex2003 (726306) | more than 2 years ago | (#38996947)

I've seen a number of projects like this.

I've seen one landfill with a couple of 1 MW generators selling electricity to the grid. Another, sells the gas to the nearby village for use for heating the community centre.

Most recently, I've seen one where the landfill gas is captured and used to fuel the garbage trucks. (Diesel/CNG dual fuel).

Who runs Bartertown? (1)

Tekfactory (937086) | more than 2 years ago | (#38996371)

Master Blaster

Re:Who runs Bartertown? (1)

na1led (1030470) | more than 2 years ago | (#38996851)

That was pig poop.

Re:Who runs Bartertown? (1)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 2 years ago | (#38997789)

To be fair I think it was Blaster that was doing the posting this morning.

Farts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38996391)

I convert fruits and veggies into gas, but not for cars.

Ton of food = 1 glass of fuel (1)

na1led (1030470) | more than 2 years ago | (#38996393)

I'm sure the power plant requires fuel to process the food, so is it realy practical? Besides, how is this any better than using Corn or Suger Cain for fuel, that's already being done.

Re:Ton of food = 1 glass of fuel (2)

eternaldoctorwho (2563923) | more than 2 years ago | (#38996543)

It is better because it converts just about anything, including waste biomass we already generate. With corn and sugar based fuels, whole crops needs to be grown (and probably subsidized) to meet the modern demand for fuel. Ethanol and other biofuels have already been shown to be not quite as cost-effective as originally hoped, but with this system, we can start harvesting landfills for fuel.

Fermentation process supplied from wasted goods (2)

Tekfactory (937086) | more than 2 years ago | (#38996545)

Fermentation is a very passive process as far as the plant is concerned. Very little extra energy is introduced into the system. Once the energy is exttracted the leftovers can probably be used as a livestock feed like many distilleries do with their dried mash.

Plus were also looking at a source material feedstock if you will that comes from waste that already exists, not Corn and Sugar Cane that would otherwise be feeding people and keeping the prices of those goods at a reasonable level.

Yes, it is (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38996969)

I'm sure the power plant requires fuel to process the food, so is it realy practical?

Yes it is. considering that there are about 5 gorcery stores within a 4 mile radius of me, I am quite confident that there's enough food. Because we all know this is going to be powered by farm raised salmon, lamb, best cuts of beef, fresh lettuce, and an assortment of fruits and veggies.

I think that will be the new status symbol.

"Why, that guy is soooooo rich, he get's his methane from caviar!"

On another note. I once saw an incredibly distressful state - I think it was in Scientific American: about 50% of the food produced in the US ends up in the trash bin as waste. Considering what's happening to our fisheries, that thought that half of what's caught ends up in a landfill just disgusts me. If you look at your local fish counter, most of it is wild caught.

We waste way too much food in this country and judging by our collective waistlines, we consume too much too.

Re:Ton of food = 1 glass of fuel (1)

Thavilden (1613435) | more than 2 years ago | (#38997113)

Depending on the plant, when consumption is low during the night, there may have to be some power dissipators on site to keep the power plant load up at some minimum for it to keep regulation. Any method that uses that extra base power at night that isn't just wasted as heat would be a good thing. Storage is the most obvious solution and batteries aren't the only way to store energy. Pumping water up into a tower, heating some tank of well insulated molten salt (for using the heat later), or in this case potentially aiding in the conversion of waste to fuel.

Re:Ton of food = 1 glass of fuel (1)

RavenManiac (220921) | more than 2 years ago | (#38997147)

I'm sure the power plant requires fuel to process the food, so is it realy practical? Besides, how is this any better than using Corn or Suger Cain for fuel, that's already being done.

Better idea is to use ALL of the GMO Corn and Soybeans for fuel until it's used up, so people and animals won't have to eat food that makes them sick. By the time the GMO crops are gone, we'll have enough honeybees to fertilize the crops.

Ton of waste = many gallons of fuel (1)

Medievalist (16032) | more than 2 years ago | (#38997997)

I'm sure the power plant requires fuel to process the food, so is it realy practical?

All energy producing industries consume energy. Coal and uranium don't mine themselves, gas doesn't pump itself through the pipeline and purify itself. Electrical generators not only use electricity to energize the generator windings, but also electricity loses energy by heating the transmission wires whenever you move it around. Don't even get me started about battery losses.

The trick is to get more energy out than you put in. Currently, you can't do that at all with fusion, and you can't do that both economically and safely with fission (although you can do one or the other) but you sure can do it with coal, wood, natural gas, or any number of other burnable resources.

But the goal is to use something renewable that does not release into the air carbon that used to be locked in the ground. Since plants take all of their carbon from the air, and none from the soil, that's the ticket!

Besides, how is this any better than using Corn or Suger Cain for fuel, that's already being done.

Sugar cane and sugar beets are great in the parts of the world where they can grow without fertilizer. Corn ethanol fuels are not economically viable without government subsidies - the same sort of anti-humanist socialism that makes nuclear plants viable - because it takes too much energy to farm and reduce corn. Corn ethanol is just corporate welfare, not a real energy policy.

Re:Ton of food = 1 glass of fuel (1)

DaveGod (703167) | more than 2 years ago | (#38998109)

Because the corn input is valuable, having alternate uses, and costs money. Waste is... Waste. It's a problem and people pay you to take it away.

Great idea (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38996431)

Great idea, maybe we should expand this.

Lets pile all our waste in a big pile, or dig a hole and "fill the land", a "landfill" if you will.
We should seal it so it doesn't contaminate groundwater of course.

Then as it ferments and releases methane we could install a venting system and collect or use all that methane for years!

Oh wait, they've been doing this for decades.

Great (1)

virgnarus (1949790) | more than 2 years ago | (#38996459)

Cars powered by fruit farts. Technology at its finest.

Re:Great (1)

joeboomer628 (869162) | more than 2 years ago | (#38996631)

Couldn't they just feed the stuff to pigs and collect their farts instead of creating machinery to bypass those poor starving animals.

Re:Great (1)

ArhcAngel (247594) | more than 2 years ago | (#38997513)

Looks like they can even bypass the pigs. [trib.com]

Re:Great (2)

wbr1 (2538558) | more than 2 years ago | (#38996891)

Not fruit farts. Bacteria farts. This is /. Get your science straight before posting. :)

My Preference (3, Funny)

lazarus (2879) | more than 2 years ago | (#38996489)

My preference is to consume the fermented fruit matter prior to the generation of methane.

Re:My Preference (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38996705)

Great idea! I drink to that!

Land fill methane (4, Interesting)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 2 years ago | (#38996493)

Methane gas is recovered from many land fill sites. Nothing new to see here, please move along.

Re:Land fill methane (1)

Kozz (7764) | more than 2 years ago | (#38996943)

Methane gas is recovered from many land fill sites. Nothing new to see here, please move along.

I suppose you're right. And I don't know much about such things, but at various landfill sites I've seen this methane being burned off -- a big 'ol stack with a big flame, just like a monster-sized candle. What is it about the methane coming from landfill sites which prevents it being used for generating electricity? Politics or science?

Re:Land fill methane (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38997287)

Nothing prevents it. Some places do it. Either way, it's better to burn it off than to let it into the wild.

Re:Land fill methane (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 2 years ago | (#38997443)

What is it about the methane coming from landfill sites which prevents it being used for generating electricity? Politics or science?

Economics. It's just not worthwhile.

Re:Land fill methane (1)

roc97007 (608802) | more than 2 years ago | (#38997479)

At the site closest to me, it doesn't appear to be either collected or burned off, but just released into the air. And I seem to remember it's not the methane that smells bad, it's the other gasses produced (ketones? I don't remember anymore) but it sure do stink.

I haven't lived in the SF Bay Area in many years -- does the ground at that outdoor arena in Mountain View still spontaneously burst into flame?

Re:Land fill methane (2)

Medievalist (16032) | more than 2 years ago | (#38998103)

What is it about the methane coming from landfill sites which prevents it being used for generating electricity? Politics or science?

Economics driven by politics.

It takes an imperial arse-load of money to convert a landfill into a power plant. It'll be more profitable to use that money to build a coal-fired plant, since you can entirely ignore any negative social consequences (such as dwindling fertility and rising cancer rates). It's cheaper to pollute... because of politics. We don't charge polluters for the damage they do to the taxpayer, so there is incentive to pollute.

Woops, used an obsolete unit (1)

Medievalist (16032) | more than 2 years ago | (#38998189)

It takes an imperial arse-load of money to convert a landfill into a power plant. It'll be more profitable to use that money to build a coal-fired plant, since you can entirely ignore any negative social consequences (such as dwindling fertility and rising cancer rates). It's cheaper to pollute... because of politics. We don't charge polluters for the damage they do to the taxpayer, so there is incentive to pollute.

Sorry, in European units that would be a metric fuck-tonne of money. For Americans, a standard fuck-ton, equivalent to the traditional shitload.

Re:Land fill methane (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39000519)

Methane gas is recovered from many land fill sites. Nothing new to see here, please move along.

I suppose you're right. And I don't know much about such things, but at various landfill sites I've seen this methane being burned off -- a big 'ol stack with a big flame, just like a monster-sized candle. What is it about the methane coming from landfill sites which prevents it being used for generating electricity? Politics or science?

Methane from capped landfill areas can be captured and burned off. Two reasons to do so:
1) With the methane comes smellier decomposition products, by burning hopefully you reduce odor.
2) Methane is 21 as effective a greenhouse gas as Carbon dioxide. By collecting and burning the methane you reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by 20/21ths.

Re:Land fill methane (1)

sourcerror (1718066) | more than 2 years ago | (#38998431)

Yeah, it's not excatly cutting edge research, even rural Indians have been using it for decades.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zjFybVIggDs [youtube.com]

Finally... (1)

sonoftheright (1372723) | more than 2 years ago | (#38996495)

I can do something with my dinner-smuggled hoard of kale and okra.

Biodigesters are a waste of money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38996629)

there just isn't a lot of gas there--
all your poop (about 45kg) for a year produces about 28 liters of gas (cite: rose george, the big necessity), enough to make you one 8oz cup of tea a day. Food waste generates twice the gas per volume input--, Americans generate about 90kg of food waste a year, enough for an additional 110 liters of gas-- so hey, for all that work you can have oatmeal for breakfast and tea at every meal!

driving cars? I call BS.

biodigesters have been "the future" since the early 19th century. unless you live on a hog farm, this whole process is a waste. aerobic compost produces better soil additives and is actually commercially profitable. Biodigesters need government subsidies. Growing biofuels with good compost makes more sense than biodigestion. Always will.

Re:Biodigesters are a waste of money (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#38996685)

Good points. Further, look at the picture in TFA. Even though it's a prototype, you can see the scale of processes needed to create the methane. To create not a whole lot of methane. This isn't going to help anyone person or any one society move off of high cost fossil fuels.

Sounds like a fun project in industrial control, but that's about it.

Double your fun if you can get a grant or two.

portable power source for cars (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38996641)

Converting fruit scraps into methane requires transportation to expensive processing plants. Can't they just install methane collectors on the seat bottoms of SUVs and pickup trucks instead? They could throw in a case of Bud Light as a deal sweetener (also to help demonstrate how fast the collection works).

Wave of the future (1)

bigsexyjoe (581721) | more than 2 years ago | (#38996765)

I believe this will really take off when they start genetically engineering bacteria to be efficient fuel producers. I believe that bacteria engineered to produce hydro-carbon fuel will be the power source of the future.

Re:Wave of the future (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38996951)

I'd prefer the algae that produces long-chain hydrocarbons. Turns sunlight, water, CO2, and a few other elements into semi-crude oil and more algae.

In other news... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38996959)

...a new product will turn human hair into candle wax to run your iPhone.

Nerd Card Revoked (2)

Krater76 (810350) | more than 2 years ago | (#38996975)

... Doc Brown fills with household garbage, including a banana peel and some beer, to power the iconic time-traveling DeLorean. While we're still some way from such direct means of running our cars on table scraps...

The Mr. Fusion only powered the Flux Capacitor not the DeLorean. The DeLorean still ran on gasoline and is why Marty gets stuck back in 1885 when the arrow pierces the gas tank.

Re:Nerd Card Revoked (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38997135)

I own a DeLorean and I assure you that a normal bow and arrow would not end up piercing the tank itself.

Re:Nerd Card Revoked (3, Funny)

camperdave (969942) | more than 2 years ago | (#38997477)

Ah! But this wasn't a normal bow and arrow. This was a plot motivating bow and arrow.

Re:Nerd Card Revoked (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38997541)

+1 Informative pedantic aspie.

Re:Nerd Card Revoked (1)

dave420 (699308) | more than 2 years ago | (#38997549)

It hits an added, exposed fuel line.

Re:Nerd Card Revoked (1)

WillAdams (45638) | more than 2 years ago | (#38998307)

There's a picture on one of the archery discussion sites of an arrow from a target bow piercing the door of an SUV.

Native Americans bow draw weights were typically much greater than is typical today (~80 pounds) and iron or steel trade points had pretty much completely replaced stone and rawhide points w/ any group which had contact w/ European traders long before the late 1800s.

But, if memory serves the fuel tank was down between the arms of the frame?

Ah, here we are:

http://www.lotusespritworld.com/images/history/Delorean/Delorean_02.jpg [lotusespritworld.com]

The body of a Delorean is fairly thin SS304 and the fuel tank itself doesn't look to be especially durable:

http://store.delorean.com/p-6552-fuel-tank.aspx [delorean.com]

Tricky shot, but probably impossible.

Re:Nerd Card Revoked (1)

TheSpoom (715771) | more than 2 years ago | (#38998435)

MythBusters?

Re:Nerd Card Revoked (1)

Hillgiant (916436) | more than 2 years ago | (#38997935)

You raise an interesting point. With 1.21 gigawatts on tap, why didn't Doc Brown put in an electric drive?

Re:Nerd Card Revoked (1)

Khashishi (775369) | more than 2 years ago | (#38998393)

I'm pretty sure the 1.21 GW is only needed over a brief pulse, not longer than the duration of a lightning stroke. The 1.21 GW certainly isn't available for use continuously.

Re:Nerd Card Revoked (1)

will_die (586523) | more than 2 years ago | (#39000329)

If the Mr Fusion could not do continuous power in that range then what is its use in the consumer marker? I guess it could be producing less power and charging some batteries.

I may be a little bit dense... (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 2 years ago | (#38997179)

...but isn't this the thing I've known since my childhood as "biogas"? What's the difference?

right.. (1)

roc97007 (608802) | more than 2 years ago | (#38997419)

because the volume of methane from vegetable waste will make a huge difference on our dependence on foreign oil.

...However, it's not a bad idea for a survival or deep backwoods technique, if the process scales down reasonably well. Not sure I can consume that much fruit, though.

My goats convert scraps to milk (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38997449)

and methane...the wonders of a fermenting rumen.

UGH! Wrong Direction! (0)

multimediavt (965608) | more than 2 years ago | (#38997459)

Why?!?! Why are we still burning things to make things go!?!?! This is the epiphany that hit me the other day. We, as a species have been burning stuff for heat for MILLENNIA! It is so bad now that we are affecting our climate. I don't care how "clean" it is we have to stop burning stuff to get energy. PERIOD! We have to stop supporting research to produce more "burning stuff" alternatives. It's the WRONG DAMN DIRECTION! Tidal, wind, solar that's where we need to go. We have a 4 billion year supply of energy coming from our sun (the heating from which also drives our winds)...USE IT! We have tidal forces driven by the sun and our moon that are just as limitless...USE IT! For crying out loud, we need to pull our collective heads out of our arses and wake up and smell the coffee! We can't keep burning stuff for energy, it's gonna kill us as a species if we don't quit soon, i.e., within a few more generations.

Re:UGH! Wrong Direction! (2)

Khashishi (775369) | more than 2 years ago | (#38998427)

Your use of PERIOD makes your argument that much more persuasive. Why should we stop biofuel research? Because you said so. PERIOD.

Re:UGH! Wrong Direction! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38998773)

Burning stuff for energy produces the most energy at the least cost. This isn't a corporate thing, it's a 'we live in an oxygen-rich environment and things burn easily here' thing If we were in space and there wasn't as much oxygen we wouldn't burn as much stuff. Also, the cost, in terms of time+effort = energy produced/recovered means we have a long way to go before we can get the energy we need out of tidal and solar. It is difficult to do and the energy in the above terms isn't free.

On the other hand the cost in terms of time+effort= destruction-of-habitat, which is very high for the 'burning stuff' choice means we should continue developing solar and tidal as fast as we can. The price of habitat is rising and we ain't making any more of it. It's the ultimate limited resource.

Whats old is new -Gasification (1)

splatter (39844) | more than 2 years ago | (#38997575)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biomass_gasification [wikipedia.org]

There was just recently a show that talked about this, which were common back in the day. They used to be used on tractors & old auto mobiles. By burning wood ( or anything combustible) they can produce a diesel alternative.

I can't be more specific because I'm not really knowledgable of how it works, other then the "no shit you can do that" moment watching the host on the tv run a generator from burnt trash / wood.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biomass_gasification#Transport_fuel [wikipedia.org]

Bah, thats nothing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38997617)

I produce natural gas myself, using only beans as input...

No thanks... (1)

rec9140 (732463) | more than 2 years ago | (#38997727)

"Fraunhofer"

There ended my interest in the process... the Fraunhofer Gestapo will be checking to see if your using approved waste....NO THANKS!

Their antics over MP3 is absolute BS.. NO I do NOT recoginize IP, trademark, license, copyright, or any other of that BS. Its just another reason why I won't travel to Germany again. Would love to go stand at the Brandenburg Gate and compare it to when I was there last and AK47 wielding soliders were poised on top, and would love to get Diebels Alt direct from the brewery. (Sadly InBev took them over, and they have quit importing to the US, but the first is enough to quick drinking it, along with the fact that they purcashed schloheiser... Budvar Budweiser is the ONE, ONLY AND TRUE Budweiser!)

Do not touch any tech from Fraunhofer.

Veggie waste? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38998013)

You meant it converts dead vegetarians into fuel for cars?

One notable difference... (1)

Xtifr (1323) | more than 2 years ago | (#38998025)

There's one major difference, which I'm surprised that I have to point out to a slashdot audience: fusion releases a whole lot more energy than decomposition and burning. Like, orders of magnitude. So to compare this to the Mr. Fusion unit in BTTF is quite misleading. It may seem odd to use a car analogy in a story about cars, but I'm going to take a stab at it. This is like rolling a log down a hill and claiming that you've invented the Ferrari. :)

It's called a compost heap (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38998563)

And you're supposed to do it at home.

Jean Pain was a step ahead of this in the 1970's, heating his home's water and producing fuel for his truck, both free.

Date of release? (1)

otenki (1087827) | more than 2 years ago | (#38998687)

Will a commercial launch be in time for the four heads of lettuce i bought from Costco four weeks ago?

As a meat eater... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39000703)

... I object to this inhumane treating of our fellow fruits and veggies! Carrots are people too!

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