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Purdue Makes Trash To Electricity Generator

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the mister-fusion dept.

Power 250

musicon writes "A group of scientists at Purdue University have created a portable refinery that efficiently converts food, paper, and plastic trash into electricity. The machine, designed for the U.S. military, would allow soldiers in the field to convert waste into power. It could also have widespread civilian applications in the future. Researchers tested the first tactical biorefinery prototype in November and found that it produced approximately 90 percent more energy than it consumed."

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Yawn... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17917780)

Wake me when they invent the Flux Capacitor.

Re:Yawn... (1)

w_lighter (995939) | more than 7 years ago | (#17918028)

Some how i was expected this comment to surface... hahahaha My first thought after reading the article title was abt flux capacitor too... hahaha

Re:Yawn... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17918518)

My second thought was:

Imagine a Beowulf cluster of these!

Re:Yawn... (5, Funny)

macadamia_harold (947445) | more than 7 years ago | (#17918240)

Wake me when they invent the Flux Capacitor.

From the writeup, it sounds like they've created Mr. Fusion. So when the Flux Capacitor is created, at least the inventor won't be chased down at the twin pines mall by middle eastern terrorists in a vw bus.

Re:Yawn... (5, Funny)

BakaHoushi (786009) | more than 7 years ago | (#17918450)

What are you talking about? Last I checked, there was only the Lone Pine Mall... (and there were terrorists there, but they crashed into a photo hut and were arrested)

My son attended classes with Neil Havens Rodreick? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17918358)

The 29 year old who was pretending to be a 12 year old was in my son's class.

We've sent the kid to a shrink to find out if the pedophile did anything to him. I'm told this doesn't make my son gay if anything did happen. I don't think I buy that.

I plan to sue the school board for letting a 29 year old convicted pedophile attend classes with a bunch of seventh graders. My son's mother is telling me I shouldn't sue unless he's been molested. I also want to see the damn school board and the principle fired for their incompetence.

I saw an interview on TV where the damn principal was yammering about what a "Good student" he was.

What the ****?????

Watch the video here:

http://www.cnn.com/2007/LAW/01/25/sex.ruse.ap/inde x.html [cnn.com]

Any ideas on what I should ask for when I sue? If my son's been turned gay then I damn well better get a few million in compensation so I can pay to have him set straight. I'm gonna file criminal charges against the school board.

Does it run on batteries? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17917806)

Aha? And how much electricity does it use in the process or is it "self sufficient"?

Re:Does it run on batteries? (4, Funny)

cp.tar (871488) | more than 7 years ago | (#17917906)

Which part of this sentence:

Researchers tested the first tactical biorefinery prototype in November and found that it produced approximately 90 percent more energy than it consumed.
don't you understand?

Re:Does it run on batteries? (1)

gomiam (587421) | more than 7 years ago | (#17918272)

It seems a lot of people misunderstood. Saying it reaches an efficiency a bit over 47% would have been easier to understand. Now, that efficiency is quite good. For each 1.9 units of energy that the fuel provide, 1 is consumed and 0.9 comes out as electricity: this means the generator eats up 100/1.9% of the available energy, almost 53%, and the rest becomes electricity. Of course, the fuel used to start the generator should be factored in, but it is only required again if the generator runs out of waste to process, so it could be ignored in the long run.

Note: I probably am redundant already.

Re:Does it run on batteries? (1)

sliz3 (933049) | more than 7 years ago | (#17918460)

shouldn't that be

"For each 2.9 units of energy that the fuel provide, 1 is consumed and 1.9 comes out as electricity"?

Re:Does it run on batteries? (1, Troll)

morie (227571) | more than 7 years ago | (#17918616)

No, it shouldn't. total is 90% more than used. total = u+0.9u = 1.9u QED

Re:Does it run on batteries? (2, Insightful)

gomiam (587421) | more than 7 years ago | (#17918682)

I think I made a mistake while adding up. I apologize to those I misled.

Well, the article states it produced approximately 90 percent more energy than it consumed. Strictly read, this means that 1.9 units are produced per consumed energy unit, since totals are mentioned.

As such, the energy efficiency would be 100*(1-1/2.9)%=65,51%. I don't know the usual efficiency of this kind of generator, but 65% seems to be far too much (since combustion is used in the process).

Re:Does it run on batteries? (1)

advocate_one (662832) | more than 7 years ago | (#17918474)

makes a good heat source so they should be able to capture that heat and turn the thing into a CHP type plant instead of just an electricity plant... hmmm lots of nice hot water... so, when can I have a micro one for my house then???

Incredible (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17917808)

So this takes WASTE and turns it into USABLE ELECTRICITY!!?!?! If true, this shit could save the planet a lot of pain. No panacea, but a darn good start.

Re:Incredible (4, Informative)

dangitman (862676) | more than 7 years ago | (#17918000)

So this takes WASTE and turns it into USABLE ELECTRICITY!!?!?! If true, this shit could save the planet a lot of pain.

Not on a large scale, I think. This is likely to be a very polluting energy source. Hence it being described as "tactical." Good for emergency use - or for a desperately poor village that doesn't have any electricity to meet basic needs. But not to power your Plasma TV or Playstation.

Re:Incredible (1)

evilviper (135110) | more than 7 years ago | (#17918200)

This is likely to be a very polluting energy source.
As opposed to the 2-stroke engine in smaller, cheaper generators?

But not to power your Plasma TV or Playstation.
No, for that, you'll have a centralized power plant outside the local dump, with all the pollution controls of any other power plant.

There are already several such power plants currently in use.

Re:Incredible (2, Interesting)

dangitman (862676) | more than 7 years ago | (#17918248)

As opposed to the 2-stroke engine in smaller, cheaper generators?

In don't know, quite possibly. The point is that smaller generators are generally more polluting and less efficient. Being a diesel, and using waste-generated fuel, it probably generates more particulate pollution than your 2-stroke, but saves some fossil fuel and gets rid of some waste.

But in general, small generators suck, which is why they are only used for emergency and other limited applications.

No, for that, you'll have a centralized power plant outside the local dump, with all the pollution controls of any other power plant.

But you'd probably do better by recycling the waste to create other materials, and using sources such as solar and wind for electricity generation. Electricity is not our only demand, materials are also needed. Better to re-use those solid materials when possible than to simply burn it for energy.

Re:Incredible (1)

evilviper (135110) | more than 7 years ago | (#17918364)

But you'd probably do better by recycling the waste to create other materials,
I suggest you take a drive to your local dump, and start sorting through it for recyclable items.

Recycling is a good thing, but anyone who suggests recycling 100% of materials (in this century) doesn't have a very firm grip on reality.

and using sources such as solar and wind for electricity generation.
Yeah, good luck generating all the world's electricity from solar and wind. Let me know when you've finished that up...

Re:Incredible (1)

polar red (215081) | more than 7 years ago | (#17918640)

Recycling is a good thing, but anyone who suggests recycling 100% of materials (in this century) doesn't have a very firm grip on reality.
That isn't possible yet, but eventually, we should do that, resources like copper are limited.

Re:Incredible (3, Insightful)

dangitman (862676) | more than 7 years ago | (#17918800)

I suggest you take a drive to your local dump, and start sorting through it for recyclable items.

I didn't say all of it. But it would be possible if humans actually cared enough to put any effort into sustainable energy. Why do you think it's not possible?

Yeah, good luck generating all the world's electricity from solar and wind. Let me know when you've finished that up...

I didn't say all of it. But it would be possible if humans actually cared enough to put any effort into sustainable energy. Why do you think it's not possible?

Why the defeatist attitude? Humans have done many things that were deemed impossible only a short time ago. Like flying, or reaching the moon, or transmitting messages invisibly through the air. Solar and wind power are proven to work, we just lack the will to implement it properly. In many ways, powering everything from sustainable sources is much less "far out" than travelling into space was considered a short time ago. I guess we shouldn't bother trying, because you don't think it's possible?

Re:Incredible (1, Funny)

Pecholata (935280) | more than 7 years ago | (#17918304)

Does this mean that if I put a copy of Windows Vista into that machine I can generate electricity for all my city?

Oh god, a copy of Windows Millenium will be better than a fusion reactor :-p

Re:Incredible (2, Funny)

darkain (749283) | more than 7 years ago | (#17918700)

Windows Vista runs my Sim City just fine!

Thermodynamics (1, Insightful)

The_Mr_Flibble (738358) | more than 7 years ago | (#17917810)

I will not break the second law of thermodynamics

Re:Thermodynamics (1)

dam.capsule.org (183256) | more than 7 years ago | (#17917874)

Where does it break it ? When you light a fire you use some energy to start it, it then produce it's energy alone. A heat pump needs electricity, it still produces more energy then it need. No need to break the thermodynamic laws for that.

Re:Thermodynamics (1)

The_Mr_Flibble (738358) | more than 7 years ago | (#17918714)

But where does the extra energy come from ? the stuff you are burning contains energy.

Creates 90% more energy than is consumed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17917812)

"Researchers tested the first tactical biorefinery prototype in November and found that it produced approximately 90 percent more energy than it consumed."

Eh...? Am I misunderstanding something?

Re:Creates 90% more energy than is consumed? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17918486)

The reaction requires energy to fuel it, but the end result is 90% more than what you put into it. You can't just make a pile of trash and will it to create energy. Well you can, but uh...good luck with that.

In this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics! (1, Interesting)

teletype (40064) | more than 7 years ago | (#17917822)

Ok, wait... It produces 90% more energy than it consumes? I didn't RTFA yet, so I'm sure in there, they state that it produces 90% more energy than it takes to run the thing.

Is this statement predicated on the assumption that the matter being 'converted' to energy does not count toward the amount of energy consumed? Otherwise it's an outright impossibility, no?

Re:In this house we obey the laws of thermodynamic (1)

The_Mr_Flibble (738358) | more than 7 years ago | (#17917840)

Well either they are not counting the energy which is contained within the waste (likely)
The submitter generalized a bit to much (more likely)
Or they have invented a perpetual motion machine (I somehow doubt it).

Re:In this house we obey the laws of thermodynamic (2, Informative)

teletype (40064) | more than 7 years ago | (#17917858)

OK, now I did read the article, and it simply says:

Researchers tested the first tactical biorefinery prototype in November and found that it produced approximately 90 percent more energy than it consumed, said Jerry Warner, founder of Defense Life Sciences LLC, a private company working with Purdue researchers on the project. He said the results were better than expected.
So, as we've all been commenting, this makes no sense. They simply must mean that it takes a certain amount of energy to power the thing. And that this energy (is it electric?) plus the mass being 'converted', will produce 90% more energy than it took to power the contraption.

Maybe I'm just rationalising outrageous claims or something, but I simply can't think of another way that this could make any sense.

Re:In this house we obey the laws of thermodynamic (1)

zullnero (833754) | more than 7 years ago | (#17917928)

Okay, then disregard what I just posted. Didn't refresh in time see this reply before actually posting the darn thing. :)

Re:In this house we obey the laws of thermodynamic (1)

cp.tar (871488) | more than 7 years ago | (#17917958)

Maybe I'm just rationalising outrageous claims or something, but I simply can't think of another way that this could make any sense.

Well, of course.

This has been put in layman terms, so of course nitpickers will start with the 'that's unpossible' routine... but it's simply the statement, from what I'd understood, that for each X of energy consumed for the running of the plant itself, it gives out 0.9X in useful electricity.

Gods, the farther you go in layman's terms, the worse this looks...

Re:In this house we obey the laws of thermodynamic (1)

dangitman (862676) | more than 7 years ago | (#17918034)

No, it gives out 1.9x the energy consumed. If it gave 0.9x, that would be costing you energy to run it, not generating it.

Re:In this house we obey the laws of thermodynamic (1)

cp.tar (871488) | more than 7 years ago | (#17918804)

I said, it gives out 0.9x in useful electricity.

Power used for running the plant itself is not useful... only the power coming out of the plant can be used for something.

Re:In this house we obey the laws of thermodynamic (3, Informative)

Guybrush_T (980074) | more than 7 years ago | (#17917872)

Actually, they combine trash with ethanol to run a diesel engine ... The electricity produced is 90% higher than it would be with only ethanol. ... is what I understood :)

Re:In this house we obey the laws of thermodynamic (1)

teletype (40064) | more than 7 years ago | (#17917918)

OK, well either way, that's conceptually what I was thinking, too. I was just thinking in terms of electricity. So E = energy consumed, M = matter consumed, so E+M=E*1.90 or something...

I don't know, it's 3:21am here and I've not touched math since college.

Anyway, it's not the poster's fault, the article itself is just as misleading. Eep.

Re:In this house we obey the laws of thermodynamic (1)

zullnero (833754) | more than 7 years ago | (#17917912)

I strongly encourage you to actually read the article before you assume it's a fully electric or fossil fuel powered processor.

It's a bioprocessor. Thermodynamics be damned here. They're using yeast and other biologically engineered critters to break down trash and such into fuels that are used to power a motor that produces electricity.

The real problem here is that the poster did a lousy job of deriving a title and quoting the real meat of the story, giving the "I have no time to RTFA" crowd a moment to think it over before thumping the 2nd Law.

Re:In this house we obey the laws of thermodynamic (1)

teletype (40064) | more than 7 years ago | (#17917938)

I did RTFA, and I understand what they mean. But the poster, as well as the article, as you can see in my quote above, are both misleading.

No matter what's going on, it's still not creating 90% more energy than is put in. You can't just discount the energy derived from the material being processed because it makes for a more impressive story. Anyway, I've been chatty enough about this. Time to try for bed again!

Re:In this house we obey the laws of thermodynamic (1)

nagora (177841) | more than 7 years ago | (#17918098)

You can't just discount the energy derived from the material being processed

Yes you can, since it was garbage which was otherwise generating no energy at all and was already "extracted" etc. I could see your point if it was coal or something.

Re:In this house we obey the laws of thermodynamic (1)

betsig339 (944453) | more than 7 years ago | (#17918908)

No, garbage in this case is the same as coal. It's a fuel. The problem is that energy in has to equal no more than energy out (when considering the entire equation).

So, something like garbage+fuel+reactant=generator=electricity(out)+w aste(ash)

If the equation were 1:1.9 as you suggest, then the machine would net more energy out than in, which would break a fundamental law of physics (suggesting that E does not equal mc^2).

Re:In this house we obey the laws of thermodynamic (1)

betsig339 (944453) | more than 7 years ago | (#17918922)

The problem is that energy in has to equal no more than energy out

Sorry, I meant energy out has to equal no more than the energy in.

Re:In this house we obey the laws of thermodynamic (5, Informative)

BlackTachyon29 (1060942) | more than 7 years ago | (#17918176)

RTFA they say the generator has to run off diesel oil for several hours to power the bioreactor/reformer. Once the components have had time to break the waste material down into ethanol, methane, and propane that gets funneled back into the generator that the net result is 90% additional output. If it was to take 10 liters of diesel to start the process, after using those 10 liters, and also burning the resultant fuels from the bioreactor/reformer it would be approximatly equal in electric output to having only used a plain old generator with 19 liters of diesel. In addition it reduces the trash input to aproximatly 1/30th of the volume in ash. It is bascially a mobile trash incenerator/generator that can be jumped started with diesel. Electrical plants that burn trash to produce electricty has been around for a long time. This sounds only slightly more efficent/environmentally friendly in that they use a bioreactor to produce ethonal from the biowastes, and use gasification techniques on the other types of trash instead of just plain burning all the trash together with a steam generator.

No matter is 'converted' to energy, it is only a chemical process to rearrange the the energy in the chemical bonds of the existant trash into a more useful form of energy(ie. electricity). Same as burning coal or any other fuel, the energy is released in the form of heat to provide work.

Re:In this house we obey the laws of thermodynamic (1)

BuckFushNhisMinions (1060976) | more than 7 years ago | (#17918916)

Has anyone read up on the TDP (Thermal Depolymerization)? http://www.usatoday.com/tech/columnist/andrewkanto r/2004-01-22-kantor_x.htm [usatoday.com] I have been reading about it for a few years but very little in the mainstream media other than a casual mention. If the technology works, this would change the world and turn us into Net 0 carbon producers. Is it hype or real???

PM Machine alert (-1, Redundant)

mark-t (151149) | more than 7 years ago | (#17917826)

Produces 90% more energy than it consumed?

Uh... yeah. Right. Uh huh....

Any news on the Slashdot headline spellchecker? (-1, Offtopic)

adnonsense (826530) | more than 7 years ago | (#17917836)

I ask becaue it currently says "Purdue Makes Trash To Electicity Generator". Surely science can put cures for global warming, cancer etc. on the back-burner and put its efforts towards solving this pernicious problem?

How does it stack up? (1)

0rionx (915503) | more than 7 years ago | (#17917838)

"...it produced approximately 90 percent more energy than it consumed."

Anybody know how that compares to other forms of energy production, say, fossil fuels or nuclear?

Re:How does it stack up? (5, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 7 years ago | (#17917934)

This is described as energy returned on energy invested, or EROEI, of 1.9, which is not all that great. Ethanol from corn has a value of about 1.25, and that number is from its proponents. Anything below 1.0 is a lose.

US oil production has a value of about 3. That number declines over time; it was as high as 100 in the early days of oil production. (Look up "Spindletop") Saudi oil production has a value of about 10. Wind energy has a value of around 5. Solar power values depend on how long the equipment lasts; energy breakeven on solar cells happens some time around 5 years.

Re:How does it stack up? (1)

Phucilage (83738) | more than 7 years ago | (#17918570)

I think more than just output has to be taken into account here. For example, how much garbage is outputted that is usable by either the marines, or people in general if it became that widespread. Sure oil may have a greater energy yield, along with wind and solar power (while wind and sunlight are very abundant of course), oil is limited, and while technically garbage is limited, it doesn't seem to be slowing down in it's output.

Anyone have any numbers on the amount of garbage outputted that could be used in this thing? (Assuming you can't stuff everything in, that we'd have to separate something out of it).

Re:How does it stack up? (1)

morie (227571) | more than 7 years ago | (#17918646)

sunlight is abundant. The traditional materials for solar cells aren't, and neither is the lifetime of the cells. so, solar energy has some severe restrictions. Question is therefore also: how hard is it to find the materials to build this thing, how bulky is it (not so bulky it is a deterrent for an army apparently) and what other factors that would inhibit wide spread adoption are there?

Re:How does it stack up? (-1, Redundant)

TopSpin (753) | more than 7 years ago | (#17917956)

Anybody know how that compares to other forms of energy production, say, fossil fuels or nuclear?

Pretty well, actually. Especially since all those other forms of energy production are limited by the laws of physics.

I really, really hope that what they mean is (4, Insightful)

ed (79221) | more than 7 years ago | (#17917846)

that in order to run the kit and transform the rubbish into a form that actually powers the generaor, they require x energy.

From the consumption of the next stage they get x + 90% energy, , otherwise it's a load of keech.

Great fuels (1)

Joebert (946227) | more than 7 years ago | (#17917878)

Finally, a way to turn the worlds surplus food & recyclable materals into somthing we really need !

Perhaps this could reduce a lot of waste issues? (1)

dosh8er (608167) | more than 7 years ago | (#17917884)

For instance, the waste issue in Michigan. http://www.cleanwateraction.org/mi/donttrashmi.htm [cleanwateraction.org] This could be the beginining of the end for landfills! Not to mention its uses on the interplanetary space missions we all have been waiting for!

Re:Perhaps this could reduce a lot of waste issues (5, Informative)

teletype (40064) | more than 7 years ago | (#17918032)

Many landfills already do produce power from garbage.

The local landfill where I live, the Johnston landfill [rirrc.org] , here in Rhode Island, operates a methane recovery plant. This methane gas then flow through eleven twelve-cylinder turbocharged engines, to power a bank of generators.


This produces 15.3 megawatts of power. 1.3 megawatts is used to power the plant and landfill site. The remaining 14 megawatts is sold back to the grid, and provides power for 21,000 homes.


It's not quite 1.21 gigawatts, but it's still pretty cool.

Re:Perhaps this could reduce a lot of waste issues (-1, Troll)

Nuffsaid (855987) | more than 7 years ago | (#17918876)

The local landfill where I live, the Johnston landfill, here in Rhode Island, operates a methane recovery plant.
I'm sorry to know that you live in a landfill. Don't despair, maybe one day you'll have your own cardboard box on the streets.

Mr Fusion (5, Funny)

mpfife (655916) | more than 7 years ago | (#17917886)

"No no, this thing needs more kick than that. It's nuclear - that's the only way I can generate the 1.21 gigawatts of energy I need."

Re:Mr Fusion (1)

John Nowak (872479) | more than 7 years ago | (#17918466)

Get the quote right at least?

it's about time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17917894)

It's finally here! Mister Fusion!

Dual Purpose (5, Insightful)

supernova_hq (1014429) | more than 7 years ago | (#17917936)

This seems to have two uses, both of which are, by them selves very amazing, together even more amazing:
1. It reduces garbage 30:1 and turns it into "ash" which seems to be a very easy thing to dispose of (especially at 1/30th of the amount)
2. It CREATES energy in the process.

As for the 90% thing, i believe they are saying that the input power would be what-ever power source you give it to turn the trash into electricity, I am pretty sure that the energy already in the trash is not counted in the input.

Just think, not only could you use your own garbage to power this thing, but just consider the fact that the one thing we have been trying to find a way to get rid of, and inadvertently stockpiling in land fills, can now be reduced by a factor of 30 and turned into electricity, just take a bunch of these to a local landfill and viola, less garbage and more electricity.

Any municipal government that does not take advantage of this (assuming it gets further developement) should be considered completely incompetent.

Re:Dual Purpose (1)

teletype (40064) | more than 7 years ago | (#17918042)

Many landfills already do generate power from garbage. I don't want to duplicate my post, but if you want to see, check here [slashdot.org] .

Re:Dual Purpose (2, Insightful)

PrinceAshitaka (562972) | more than 7 years ago | (#17918440)

Any municipal government that does not take advantage of this (assuming it gets further developement) should be considered completely incompetent.


Most municipal goverments are already considered completely incompetent.

Re:Dual Purpose (1)

niconorsk (787297) | more than 7 years ago | (#17918442)

Well, while all you say is true, the technology for turning garbage into electricity efficiently has existed for a long time. The reason its not used more I don't know, but its probably a combination of reasons. The achievement here, is making the whole thing portable without losing all the efficiency. I have to say, I find the thought of US soldiers standing around in landfills burning trash to power their electronic gadgets quite amusing.

Re:Dual Purpose (3, Interesting)

jimicus (737525) | more than 7 years ago | (#17918462)

IIRC emissions is a big problem. You're not quite sure what's going in, so minimising the amount of pollution you chuck out is not easy.

Re:Dual Purpose (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 7 years ago | (#17918638)

Dioxins were/are a problem depending on who you listen too [wikipedia.org] .

Good only for landfill (1)

aepervius (535155) | more than 7 years ago | (#17918826)

You have to make sure you separate material with toxic substance first. Like Chlore (some plastics), Heavy Metal etc... On an industrial level I am sure it is happening, but on the local level (house) I am sure this would not.

Re:Dual Purpose (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17918672)

"2. It CREATES energy in the process."

NO IT FUCKING DOESN'T. It releases chemical energy stored in the refined and raw materials of the trash, which would otherwise either be burnt or dumped. When you eat a banana, are you CREATING energy?

Sweet (3, Funny)

cinnander (964876) | more than 7 years ago | (#17917942)

90% more energy than it consumes, eh. So all we have to do now is hook this thing up to, say, a pastry factory, a good supply of flour, fat, water and such, and there will be free, unlimited pastry and energy for everyone, assuming we feed the pastry scraps and uneaten pies, pasties and tarts back in the other end! :D

Toxic fumes? (1)

DimGeo (694000) | more than 7 years ago | (#17917964)

Looks like they're distilling something from garbage and then burning everything in a diesel engine or something. What about the toxic fumes you get when you burn plastic?

Re:Toxic fumes? (1)

DDLKermit007 (911046) | more than 7 years ago | (#17918196)

Plastic, and other non-organics are to be removed before being put into the system.

Re:Toxic fumes? (1)

jibjibjib (889679) | more than 7 years ago | (#17918250)

Plastic is organic.

Young Lady... (0, Redundant)

Mr. Flibble (12943) | more than 7 years ago | (#17917966)

"Researchers tested the first tactical biorefinery prototype in November and found that it produced approximately 90 percent more energy than it consumed."

Young Lady, in this house we obey the rules of thermodynamics!

Re:Young Lady... (1)

dangitman (862676) | more than 7 years ago | (#17918052)

STFU already! How many times do we have to hear this quote, when it's irrelevant to the story, anyway? Sheesh, anyone would think people who read slashdot are morons... oh, wait.

Pffff (1)

dam.capsule.org (183256) | more than 7 years ago | (#17917982)

My delorean runs on this for twenty years AND is able to travel time.

Way to go US military...
--
Doc

3000 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17917988)

If I remember right we should not be able to purchase this building until 2050, and we are still closer to 2000 than 3000 so how can we do this anyway? Did one of the researchers hack reality and enter the code "garbage in, garbage out" to get this waste to energy incinerator?

Re:3000 (1)

kae_verens (523642) | more than 7 years ago | (#17918226)

what are you on about?

what has 3000 got to do with 2000 and 2050? if you mean that 2050 is halfway between the two, then you should leave verizon and go get a different job - you're thinking of 2500.

anyway - no idea what your comment is supposed to actually be saying.

Dreaming in technicolor (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17917998)

If a lot of people have been working on a problem for a long time, you shouldn't expect a huge breakthrough. The reason I say these people are dreaming in technicolor is that they imagine that every restaurant will want one of these to process its food waste. The technology to do that has existed for a long time. The reason everyone isn't doing it is because it isn't economic.

People have been doing biodigesters since forever. The guys at Purdue haven't said they have found a magical new process. AFAICT, they are using the same process as everyone else. Ergo, they should have the same results as everyone else.

The other part of their system involves gassifying paper and plastic trash. That's another area where people have been working for a long time. It's the holy grail for municipal trash disposal. In fact, many municipalities are generating electricity from garbage but their plants are glorified incinerators not gas generators. In the early twentieth century many/most cities had gassification plants for coal. Now they are having to clean up the coal tar that was left behind to pollute the environment. The guys at Purdue didn't mention how nasty the waste product from their process might be. The people converting turkey guts to oil said that was one of the main problems they had to solve.

The guys in the story seem to have combined existing technologies and they haven't mentioned the known issues that the existing technologies suffer from. I don't expect to see one of these behind my local restaurant any time soon.

90% of what? (1, Insightful)

nick_davison (217681) | more than 7 years ago | (#17918050)

OK, so it's 90% efficient, producing 190% of the fuel energy that's required to get it going.

The question is, how much power is that? And does it merit the machine's use.

Thinking about it, it requires a couple of hours running on diesel to prime itself - so a rough guess, assuming its engine is similar to that of a small car, would be that it takes half a dozen to a dozen gallons of diesel to prime it.

In exchange, you get 190% of that in low grade fuel that its robust enough generator can process. So the equivalent energy output of maybe two dozen gallons of diesel but in a low enough grade form that you wouldn't want to put it near a regular engine.

The unit's described as about the size of a small van. Except it's likely denser so let's guess around five tons and it's cumbersome as all hell.

So, end result, you get the equivalent power output of maybe ten gallons of diesel, in a form you can't use to actually power anything much else, several hours later... in a form that likely consumes far more than that ten gallons or so to get it in to the field it's supposed to be used in.

It's cool as a concept but 190% of not a lot is still not a lot - and when the pain of getting it there and waiting for it outweighs the 90% of not a lot extra you get, it starts making more sense on efficiency grounds to stick with lugging a small generator and a couple of five gallon cans of a far more usable fuel.

In short: Just because you can do something, doesn't mean you should do it.

But I'm guessing the publicity will get them their second round funding, which is, I'm guessing, the real point of this. ;)

Re:90% of what? (1)

Khyber (864651) | more than 7 years ago | (#17918206)

It's simple. It doesn't take hardly any energy to set something on fire. Then after that you feed the fire with more fuel to keep the fire going, as opposed to the initial large amount of energy needed to set the reaction going. So, yes, this could be that much more efficient, if they did their math right. This assumes that they include the energy usage in transporting, collecting, and storing the waste to be processed into fuel. I didn't RTFA to see how the generator works, but I'll bet it's something like an old steamtrain. Get the coals burning, feed more onto the fire to keep the steam pumping. The initial reaction, again, is generally what seems to require the most energy.

Re:90% of what? (1)

owlstead (636356) | more than 7 years ago | (#17918582)

"I didn't RTFA to see how the generator works, but I'll bet it's something like an old steamtrain."

IMHO !RTFA ==> STFU

Re:90% of what? (4, Insightful)

BlackTachyon29 (1060942) | more than 7 years ago | (#17918236)

Would not be benificial to the average joe, however for the military I am guesing that it is a much better solution. We do not actually know how much more it weighs over a standard military generator and all the fuel that would be lugged around. In addition it reduces a units "signature" by removing the trash that would otherwise have to be hauled back out or destroyed in some other way. Also once it had been primed with several hours worth of diesel, it would be self supporting untill you either ran out of trash, or moved the unit somewhere and had to reprime it. I can see it reducing the logistics for diesel fuel and trash hauling for a military unit setting up a temporary base of operations.

Re:90% of what? (1)

Timberwolf0122 (872207) | more than 7 years ago | (#17918266)

Well it is the prototype so hopefuly future versions will be much smaller and lighter, however even if they were to stay as 5->10 tonne beasts they would still be good for civilian use where they don't need to move.

Re:90% of what? (2, Insightful)

evilviper (135110) | more than 7 years ago | (#17918268)

So the equivalent energy output of maybe two dozen gallons of diesel but in a low enough grade form that you wouldn't want to put it near a regular engine.
What's your point? It's not supposed to generate fuel for Humvees, it's supposed to generate lots of electricity, directly.

Are you perhaps not aware that military forces need large supplies of electricity, just as much as they need fuel for their tanks?

it starts making more sense on efficiency grounds to stick with lugging a small generator and a couple of five gallon cans of a far more usable fuel.
That's an idiotic assumption to make. What makes you think this multi-ton diesel engine is going to only be equivalent of a small generator? I have no doubt it's aiming to replace the equally large generators, that are currently in-use by the US military. A tiny, lightweight generator isn't going to handle that kind of load.

It's cool as a concept but 190% of not a lot is still not a lot
190% is a hell of a lot. Half as many fuel shipments... Half as many people putting their lives on the line to truck in that fuel. Less fuel spent in the trucks (or planes) that actually hauls that fuel in. etc.

That's not even mentioning the perhaps equally large benefit of easy disposal of waste. Not having to ship it out to a dump in a war zone could save many lives, as well as even more fuel.

It sounds great. My only question is why they're using a diesel engine, when the military currently uses turbines, which are generally more fuel efficient, and require less maintenance.

Think Bigger.... (1)

nick_davison (217681) | more than 7 years ago | (#17918074)

Hmm, powered on trash you say?

Sure, this is only a small amount of power when given a small amount of trash.

But think what a big enough one could do with New Jersey!

If there are efficiencies of scale, mankind's dreams of infinite free power could finally be realized.

Now we just need the Flux Capacitor (0, Redundant)

MadMoses (151207) | more than 7 years ago | (#17918102)

Re:Now we just need the Flux Capacitor (1)

John Nowak (872479) | more than 7 years ago | (#17918494)

If only I had mod points... to mod you redundant...

Waste Eating Robots ??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17918202)

Hmm.. time for the bio-waste eating robots to take over the world.. :-)

efficiency (1)

polar red (215081) | more than 7 years ago | (#17918256)

it produced approximately 90 percent more energy than it consumed.
So for 90 units of energy produced, it consumes 190 units of waste?
So, that means it's got a efficiency of 47.3%.

Clashes with trash disposal and recyc. scheme (1)

gd23ka (324741) | more than 7 years ago | (#17918338)

I want one right away. However I see a problem looming here for
for the private sector garbage and recycling industry. I don't
know where you live but over here it costs plenty to have your
garbage can emptied and they wont let you put into the can what
you want either - plastic, cardboard and paper each go into a
different color-coded bag and are collected according to schedule.

These Agenda21-inspired schemes would suffer tremendously if people
reduced their trash by a 30-1 volume reduction _and_ even got
power of it.

I suppose these devices will not be legal for civilian use where
they conflict with trash and recycling industry.

Re:Clashes with trash disposal and recyc. scheme (1)

owlstead (636356) | more than 7 years ago | (#17918628)

"I suppose these devices will not be legal for civilian use where
they conflict with trash and recycling industry."

In that case they should create new laws, because it's my trash. I can do whatever I want with it, providing that it doesn't break any existing laws. What the recycling companies think about it surely is not my problem. Since this is a souped up diesel generator, I would not want in my appartment though. First of all, it would hardly fit, and second it would probably be noisy as hell. And I would probably gas myself to death first.

Perfect for military operations? (0, Flamebait)

Askmum (1038780) | more than 7 years ago | (#17918348)

Also, by eliminating garbage remnants - known in the military as a unit's "signature" - it could protect the unit's security by destroying clues that such refuse could provide to enemies.
So, the next Navy Seal team to go into a secret ops mission into Iraq takes along a small moving van in order to burn up their waste.
That, and the added sound pollution of the running diesel engine will not alert the enemy at all.

Seems logical.

Re:Perfect for military operations? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17918488)

I wonder if Canada is a major supplier of packaged food for American troops?

overunity (1)

petrus4 (213815) | more than 7 years ago | (#17918418)

So does 90% more out than in mean it's overunity?

Re:overunity (1)

ajs318 (655362) | more than 7 years ago | (#17918942)

No. It needs some fuel to warm it up initially. After that, it's able to power itself on the potential energy stored in the garbage. For every kWh. of "starter" fuel you put in, you get out 1.9kWh; of which the extra 900Wh. are coming from the garbage.

Obligatory... (2, Funny)

srussia (884021) | more than 7 years ago | (#17918484)

I, for one, fear the military applications of this...not like it wasn't possible before, but perhaps this might give some people ideas that would ultimately be used to kill people...

Uh, nevermind, I just read TFS.

Laptop Power (1)

Dude163299 (906461) | more than 7 years ago | (#17918580)

So when will get these little things to replace our now exploding battiers. I'd love to just throw junk in my laptop to power it, just imagine all those pop tart an hot pocket wrappers finally being put to use to power out little portable laptop. It sure beats batteries exploding in your lap, thats for sure.

Alternative fuels (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17918690)

As I haven't thrown away much recently and really need something to power my laptop I suppose there is only one thing I can use...

HOOMANS

WWII era Wood Gas Generators (2, Interesting)

rohar (253766) | more than 7 years ago | (#17918796)

There were a fairly large number of motor vehicles converted to wood gas [wikipedia.org] during oil shortages in and after WWII.
FEMA [wikipedia.org] wrote a book in 1989 on how to build your own [webpal.org] . I think they had the foresight to realize that the U.S. military will eventually commandeer the available oil supplies again and we can try and figure out how to get to work burning garbage and the trees out of the backyard.
/* This is not a Hummer. [wikipedia.org] */

Sounds fishy.. (1)

schmiddy (599730) | more than 7 years ago | (#17918844)

This whole article sounded a little fishy to me. First of all, why didn't they even mention the more general applications of this generator -- namely converting municipal waste into electricity. I know several attempts have been made in the past, (e.g. Trash to Natural Gas [cnn.com] ). Universities love bragging about the exciting possibilities for any new technology they develop. Seems strange they'd only mention military applications. One possible explanation is that the work was conducted under a military grant, and that's how they're billing it for now.. but still...

And why haven't they done a real-world test of its capabilities. A simple experiment would be to randomly select some households, have them save their suitable trash in a special bin, and see how well this device handles real-world fare. Their quoted energy balance of +90% sounds pretty dubious. Especially with no real clues about how it does this, other than some handwaving about "parallel processes" and a diesel engine. I'll hold the praise for when this thing is actually put into action in the real world.

First War and then Society. (1)

delire (809063) | more than 7 years ago | (#17918950)

Nice one team, first things first!
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