Last week, we discussed a poop-powered rocket. Now a new car promises we’ll see human waste’s potential closer to home–or further from home, but not as far as space. The Bio-Bug, a modified Volkswagen Beetle, can run on fuel made from raw sewage.
Researchers from the Charles Darwin University in Darwin, Australia (they really like Darwin there, apparently) thought they had schemed up a clever way to study how Australian Green Tree Frogs regulate their body temperature.
They surgically implanted temperature-sensitive radio transmitters inside the frogs’ bellies, but months later when they went to retrieve the frogs, the scientists found the transmitters scattered on the ground. Like so many great scientific discoveries, the researchers eventually went from “huh?” to “aha!” according to Nature News:
Researchers have discovered that these amphibians can absorb foreign objects from their body cavities into their bladders and excrete them through urination.
For the frogs, this means that any thorns or spiny insects they swallow while hopping around trees are safely (but painfully?) removed from the body.
This is the first time this phenomenon has been observed in an animal’s bladder, but some fish and snake species can absorb objects into their intestines from their body cavity and remove them by defecation.
Talk about adaptations that would make Darwin proud.
Discoblog: A Fruit Fly With a Laser-Shaved Penis Just Can’t Catch a Break
Discoblog: Australian Bee Fights Like an Egyptian—It Mummifies Beetle Intruders
Discoblog: Jeans: Stylish, Classic, And a Decent Defense Against Rattlesnake Bites
Image: flickr / VannaGocaraRupa
Most garbage-into-energy conversion systems use incineration or gasification, where the waste is heated in the presence of oxygen to create gases that can be used as energy. The problem is that these systems can only take waste from a single source. Now, the U.S. army will use the PyTEC system, made by defense firm Qinetiq, to convert mixed garbage as diverse as glass and tin into energy.
Right now, front-line troops in Iraq and Afghanistan don’t have a proper way to dispose of trash on their bases. Now, one of the 55 temporary bases will get a mobile waste system that will produce 400kW of power and squash the waste product down to 5 percent of its original volume.
What makes the PyTEC system different from conventional methods is that it doesn’t require oxygen—rather, it uses a process called pyrolysis. Therefore, the waste can be efficiently loaded into a column at a rate of 220 lbs of waste per hour. The BBC reports:
In essence it is the same process that happens above a match; heating of the wood releases gases that burn in the presence of oxygen, producing the visible flame.
In pyrolysis, the heating occurs in the absence of oxygen, and the released gases are gathered and stored for later use….
“By providing them with a self-contained waste management capability, we’re reducing their logistical footprint, reducing the number of body bags, and reducing their fossil fuel usage,” [says Pat McGlead, waste management business development manager for Qinetiq].
This technology isn’t new: Previously a U.K. navy ship was outfitted with a similar system. However, some tweaks have since been made to make it more portable for military use. The device need not be limited to the battlefield—if used in cities, it could reduce the amount of waste by 95 percent.
80beats: Could A New Generation of Power Plants Turn Nuclear Waste Into Clean Fuel?
Discoblog: Could Poop Fuel Our Future? New Sewage-Powered Buses Hint at Yes
Image: flickr/ The U.S. Army
We never eat 27 percent of the food that exists on the shelves in grocery stores or that is served in restaurants and kitchens. There is one way to save the fate of wasted food ending up in landfills. You’ve all heard of it, but probably never tried it: composting.
People who do compost know that it smells terrible and requires a host of bacteria, earthworms, and fruit flies to turn into soil—which is why apartment and city dwellers typically avoid the practice. But now those problems may be eliminated. The San Francisco-based company NatureMill is selling a composting “robot” to make composting hassle-free, and the machine might soon become an American household mainstay.
All you have to do is plug it in, and the robot does all the work. The machine can chomp on up to 5 pounds of food a day— turning dinner leftovers into soil in less than two weeks.
For those who haven’t kept up on their space news, space junk is a growing problem that people simply can’t figure out how to handle. With an estimated 18,000 pieces of junk floating around in space (and that’s only counting pieces larger than 4 inches), the risks of collisions and damage to satellites are constantly increasing.
Now, Stanford University scientists believe they have a solution—though it certainly has a long path to approval, let alone implementation. They have suggested that countries that don’t dispose of space waste properly should be fined, on the grounds that establishing a formal international framework will encourage responsible behavior provide incentives to clean up the royal space mess. Any funds collected could be used to compensate owners of satellites damaged by debris, or to research cheaper ways to de-orbit satellites (though we can also count on a little stimulus cash to help with that one).
We’re all for innovative new forms of fuel. And when there’s a hint of irony, it’s all the better.
Last week, SITA UK, a recycling and waste management company, and the Kirklees Metropolitan Council in Northern England unveiled a garbage truck that runs on power produced by the very garbage it collects.
The truck will gather waste from 25 bins that have been newly installed around town, and transport the trash to the Energy from Waste power station and recycling center. There, the refuse will be burned to produce electricity, which is not only used to recharge the battery-operated electric vehicle overnight, but also contributes about 10 megawatts of power to the municipal electric grid every day.
The truck, a modified Ford Transit, runs on a 40kWh lithium-ion battery pack and can reach 50 mph. It has a range of 100 miles and takes six to eight hours to recharge.