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Power Science

The 660 Gallon Brewery Fuel Cell 238

Posted by samzenpus
from the drinking-electricity dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Australia's University of Queensland has secured a $115,000 grant for a 660-gallon fuel cell that should produce 2 kilowatts of power. A prototype has been operating at the university laboratory for three months. This fuel cell type is essentially a battery in which bacteria consume water-soluble brewing waste such as sugar, starch and alcohol, plus in this instance produces clean water."
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The 660 Gallon Brewery Fuel Cell

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  • Not entirely clean (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 02, 2007 @09:05PM (#18966087)

    Note that TFA indicates that this is a method to remove brewer's waste, with the byproduct of producing electricity. As a method for producing electricity in general, it is not a clean method because you'd first have to produce alcohol (which would then we cleaned by the bacteria). Producing alcohol produces *VAST* amounts of CO2.

    I have worked as an assistant winemaker at a small vinyard. Our vats are 3000 litres apiece. Even with these small vats, the temperature reached by the yeast cell division is HOT to the touch (but not enough for thermal electricity generation). If you were to walk into the room where the vats are without first ventilating the room, you would pass out because the oxygen in your lungs feels like it is literally sucked out (not sure of the actual physical process involved). If no one were around, you would die from asphyxiation. It is wierd sensation, let me tell you.

  • by fyngyrz (762201) * on Wednesday May 02, 2007 @09:22PM (#18966251) Homepage Journal
    that's 20 100 watt bulbs

    Or 200 10 watt compact florescent bulbs, which is all we use. Not 200 of them, of course. But in a 5000 square foot home, we do have quite a few.

    More importantly, that's an average rate, so storage during off hours could yield considerably more output. If you sleep 8 hours of a 24 hour day and aren't home for another 8 while you work, that leaves 8 hours at 6 kilowatts if you control your inactive power consumption decently, and even if you don't, you could still end up with a great deal more than 2KW available to you. Storage also allows for short peak usage (startup of furnace blowers, refrigerator motors, air conditioners and so on... takes a lot more to start most motors than it does to keep them turning, even under load.

    I would definitely be willing to make room for a 700 gallon or so tank; I wonder what the feeding, cleaning, and environmental requirements for a production version will be. I've been seriously considering solar, but the high installation cost and the relatively short lifetime of silicon cells (20 years or less) doesn't work out very well. If this thing can run long term and isn't a maintenance nightmare, I'd jump on that puppy instantly.

  • New Belgium Brewery (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tooyoung (853621) on Wednesday May 02, 2007 @09:25PM (#18966301)
    New Belgium Brewery [newbelgium.com], most famous for Fat Tire and Sunshine, produce 10% of their electricity using the methane that is produced from bacteria feeding off of their waste water.
  • by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Wednesday May 02, 2007 @09:40PM (#18966451)
    http://www.ccc.govt.nz/WasteWater/TreatmentPlant/F lowDiagram.asp [ccc.govt.nz]

    The digester in this small (330k population) plant generates methane which fires converted gasoline engines to generate electricity. The waste heat goes to warming the digester. There's still solid waste though.

    Burning methane is a GoodTHing. Methane has approx 27 times the greenhouse effect of CO2, so burning it produces power and reduces greenhouse gases.

  • by lordmatthias215 (919632) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @09:13AM (#18971179)
    Well I realize that the process would be carbon neutral once you're growing plants to process, I was mainly thinking of the fact that since we're producing CO2 in high concentration, we may as well use it in high concentration to boost plant growth. The next step would be just making sure the CO2 isn't able to hit the atmosphere at large before the plants have a chance to use it. Other than that, you're right- it doesn't really matter if the CO2 gets out there as long as there are plenty of plants to compensate.
  • by GooberToo (74388) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @09:22AM (#18971295)
    Fuel from corn in America is foolish. Corn is often grown with water taken taken from an underground aquifer. The aquifer is getting so low, most people that are aware of it are starting to become very concerned. The government already has restrictions on who gets the water and what can be done with it. Worse, there are already predictions on when the acquifer will run out, or run low enough to significantly effect crop productions across America. Yet we are now starting down a path which will place additional pressure on this acquifer to grow even more corn we don't need.

    Right now, up to 15% of all corn grown in the US is irrigated from this acquifer. Running out of water in this acquifer means loss of massive crops reaching far beyond that of corn. Not to mention, byproducts from crops grown from this acquifer are used to feed large heards of cattle.

    Right now, ethanol is one of the largest farces ever thrust on Americans. Inclusion of ethanol in gas is one of the reasons fuel prices have risen. If you include the cost of ethanol, after subsides are accounted for, we are already paying some four to five dollars per gallon. Using corn for ethanol makes zero economic sense and worse, is directly contributing to the depletion of the largest underground acquifers in the US (perhaps in the world). Encouraging yet more corn crops makes even less sense.

    Which would you rather have, ethanol which costs more per gallon than gas (and requires more energy to produce than it yields) or food and fresh drinking water? It really is that simple.

    Long story short, please don't encourage additional corn crops.

Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable.

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