A Welsh Black Box to make biofuel whilst capturing car fumes
July 24, 2007 3:29 AM   Subscribe

A Welsh Black Box to make biofuel whilst capturing car fumes
posted by ItsaMario (25 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Algae is a known route to get biodiesel, it's the highest yielding method, as far as I know. I believe high temperatures and carbon dioxide help the process. So the bioreactor part is pretty straightforward.

A gallon of diesel produces 22 pounds of carbon dioxide when burned, that's a lot of algae food. But if your tank holds 10 gallons, that box is going to weigh 200 lbs, assuming it's efficient. How is it changed? If it takes longer than the time spent normally filling up, people in this "no time" won't stand for it.

I assume the green box is the equivalent of a smokestack scrubber, writ small.

What else is there to say but this?
posted by maxwelton at 3:49 AM on July 24, 2007

Sounds great I want to believe this can work too. But, knowing me, I won't change my damn green box until the back seat is filled with algae.
posted by Blingo at 4:19 AM on July 24, 2007

Not surprisingly, the trio won't show anyone -- not even their wives -- what's inside the box.

Hey, wanna buy a bridge?
posted by caddis at 4:39 AM on July 24, 2007

Yeah, even if you only get the carbon, that's most of the weight of the gas. And algae only eats CO2 while photosynthesizing - it takes energy to lock up carbon in plants.
posted by aubilenon at 4:58 AM on July 24, 2007

the carbon dioxide is captured and held in a secure state

Anyone know what that means? Maybe Brent Kovar can explain it.
posted by sidereal at 5:35 AM on July 24, 2007

but three fishing buddies in North Wales believe they have cracked it.

Keyword here: belive.

Reading the article, it seems as though they have done some 'legitimate' testing, but who knows. These free energy type people are often quite silly.

The real way to curb greenhouse gas emissions caused by driving is to use renewable fuels that remove CO2 from the air when they are made, like ethanol or biodiesel. You are never going to be able to make a car engine run as efficiently as a power plant in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, so why try? Carbon sequestration has a much better chance of working at large facilities.
posted by delmoi at 5:42 AM on July 24, 2007

It began with the forging of the Great Keys.

"Our three minds hold the three keys and we can only unlock it together," said Houston.

But they were all of them deceived, for a new key was made...

Right, anyone else catch a LoTR-esque ring to that? (ha! pun!)
posted by ikebowen at 6:13 AM on July 24, 2007

"The carbon dioxide, held in its safe, inert state"
wait, CO2 has an unsafe, active state?!

"Our three minds hold the three keys and we can only unlock it together,"
Oh dear, somebody has been watching too much sci-fi...
posted by nielm at 6:16 AM on July 24, 2007

This reminds me to see what Steorn is up to these days -- apparently, a new website, a catchy-yet-playful name for their technology, and no hard news about the validation.
posted by greatgefilte at 6:39 AM on July 24, 2007

I thought of something like this for my (high-efficiency) home gas furnace. (A tank of algae with the furnace exhaust bubbling though.) Thus it could be larger than the automobile-based one (if it works) and it could use electricity (aargh) to provide light for photosynthesis.
posted by mbarryf at 6:44 AM on July 24, 2007

"Although the box the men currently use for demonstration is about the size of a bar stool"

Is this another one of those 'Imperial' units of measurement I've heard so much about?
posted by arialblack at 6:51 AM on July 24, 2007

ooh, they're looking for additional funding - damn, where's my wallet?
posted by CynicalKnight at 7:15 AM on July 24, 2007

I believe this will solve the UK's carbon emission problems - and, eventually, the world's.

I'm going on the record in support of this - so that when it works out and we're all driving around with these things I can point back at this thread and shun the nonbelievers.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 7:24 AM on July 24, 2007

Now, I don't know anything about this particular product these fishing buddies are working on, but the theory doesn't seem unsound. Capture the carbon at a relatively high rate (which is something a lot of people are working on, though not on this scale) and then bubble it through some algae ponds.

aubilenon: photosynthesis requires light, something which is rather plentiful, you know, outside.

delmoi: They are proposing to grow algae with the carbon and then make biodiesel from it.

mbarryf: I've thought the same thing: why not use sunlight though?
posted by ssg at 7:47 AM on July 24, 2007

This sounds like magical fairy chemistry, but perhaps it works. Perhaps it can be made affordable enough that it won't cost more than the vehicle itself to use. Is the chemistry reversible enough, or are these going to have to be thrown out after a couple of dozen uses? What's the replacement cost per unit? How much do they cut down on the efficiency of the engine (by raising the exhaust back-pressure)?

Why are they targeting cars? Stationary power plants have bigger emissions than vehicles in total (at least in my neck of the woods) and would be easier to manage from a business standpoint. God knows, they're interested enough.

Algae do indeed have a lot of potential for making biofuels---some species produce more than 40% oil by plant mass. Nobody has been able to get them to grow in large batches though. That's a problem at least five years from solution, even in the opinion of their most optimistic proponents. It seems a weak hope to pin your plans upon.

These are just a few of the of hurdles they need to overcome. These are high bars and there are many of them. Lots of the pieces of their puzzle don't seem to exist yet. Still, it might work... to hook some investors.
posted by bonehead at 8:01 AM on July 24, 2007

If they had a serious invention they would have patented it and they wouldn't need secrecy. What they really have is just a desire for money for their cockamamie scheme. Every time one of these secret inventions comes along it turns out to be nothing but hot air.
posted by caddis at 8:24 AM on July 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

So...they wouldn't need any special box if we indeed figured out a way to mass produce algae for biodiesel. Otherwise carbon sequestering maybe the only good short term solution to global warming
posted by aaronscool at 8:28 AM on July 24, 2007

No, this isn't really related to sequestration. It's about capture from mobile sources. Sequestration is what happens after capture. This magic box is still needed to capture vehicle emissions regardless of what happens to the stored carbon dioxide.

There's no reason that this carbon dioxide could not be inorganically sequestered, as the coal and oil producers are talking about (see my link above for an example). The algae-to-biofuel bit is their more far-fetched, but sexy, alternative to pump-it-into-the-ground sequestration.
posted by bonehead at 8:48 AM on July 24, 2007

"Although the box the men currently use for demonstration is about the size of a bar stool"

Is this another one of those 'Imperial' units of measurement I've heard so much about?

Torchwood refuses to go metric arialblack.
posted by cgk at 9:55 AM on July 24, 2007

So this box, it eats garbage and rusty metal and it shits rare jewels? Interesting. Can I see how it works? No? OK, did you guys get a patent yet? Really... all right? So. Ok then, how much money do you want?

It's a nice idea, but I've seen too much vaporware (Ha! pun intended) lately. I'll believe it when I have a working one on my car.
posted by quin at 11:04 AM on July 24, 2007

I don't think it's far-fetched. Not that long ago, we were discussing a nearly identical device designed for scrubbing smokestacks.

Not sure about scaling it down to car-size, but it'll be great if it works.
posted by O9scar at 11:52 AM on July 24, 2007

I still feel the biggest stumbling block in this operation, assuming all of the tech worked (a huge assumption), is the changing of the cartridge under the car. If you've ever tinkered about with cars, you know exhaust work is dirty and frustrating. They would need to have a reliable way of removing the cartridge 600 times per year.

I gather 1,000,000 gallons a year is not an unusual volume for a service station. That's 2740 gallons a day, or, in our change-every-ten-gallons scenario, 274 of these cartidges they'll generate every day. That's 2000 new and used cartridges they need to store for a week's turnover.

More interesting, 200 full cartridges weigh 192 tons. In my state, the legal limit for a normal sized semi-trailer is 20 tons. That means you need 10 semi-trailers per week to haul off the full cartridges.
posted by maxwelton at 1:24 PM on July 24, 2007

2000 full cartridges, not 200. Doh.
posted by maxwelton at 1:26 PM on July 24, 2007

Not to overthink this plate of beans, but that means the only way this is practical is if each service station is able to process the cartridges back into fuel.
posted by maxwelton at 1:28 PM on July 24, 2007

anyone else catch a LoTR-esque ring to that?

"Back then, I was known as Sgt. Simpson, and I commanded the Flying Hellfish, the fightingest squad in the fightingest company in the third-fightingest battalion in the army."
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:13 PM on July 24, 2007

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