Tactical biomass refineries is just a fancy name to describe a device that turns trash into electricity. A ton of trash offers up to 20 hours of power which is more than enough to light up a small village. This sounds interesting, but will transporting these 4-ton behemoths to Iraq actually result in a larger carbon footprint in total?
The novel machines were built by defense contractors and Purdue University scientists as part of the Army’s push to reduce troops’ diesel fuel use in Iraq, where convoys are frequently targeted by insurgents. Nate Mosier, an assistant professor of agricultural and biological engineering who is overseeing the work at Purdue, said the refineries are unique in their ability to burn multiple fuels at once. They’re also portable, designed to fit snugly into a standard shipping container. The trash-to-energy process begins when unfiltered garbage is fed into a chute, falling into a grinder that chews the trash into small pieces. Organic food waste heads to a bioreactor where an industrial fermenting process produces ethanol. In another chamber, plastic, cardboard and other trash items are heated to create low-grade propane or methane. Those gases and the ethanol are then combusted in the refinery’s modified diesel engine, which powers a 60-kilowatt generator.