Portable Biorefineries Turn Trash Into Fuel

March 14, 2008 / 2 Comments

“Tactical Biorefineries” is what they call these new portable generators roughly the size a small moving van that weighs about 4 tons and turn trash into electricity. They’ve been mainly designed for the U.S. military and could be used outside the military shortly after, when the technology evolves (translated: “when they want to”) in the future.

portable biorefinery Portable Biorefineries Turn Trash Into Fuel

The biorefineries are designed to use multiple types of garbage at once; first it has to separate organic foods from residual trash (paper, plastics, etc). Food waste is sent to a bioreactor and ferments into ethanol while the residual materials are used in a gasifier and turned into low-grade propane gas and methane. But wait, that’s not all because the propane and methane are also being used in a modified diesel engine that powers the generator which produces electricity.

“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,” said Michael Ladisch, the professor of agricultural and biological engineering at Purdue University who leads the project.

The first unit (it costs $1 million)  has been tested in November and the results have been great. Though it works on diesel fuel for a few hours until the gasifier and the bioreactor begin to produce fuel it produced 90 percent more than it consumed.

I’ll have to agree it’s a great piece of technology and lots of places could use one.