Mr Combustion

Every 80’s kid fondly remembers Michael J. Fox’s hit movie “Back to the Future“.

The greatest moment for nerdy kids like me was at the very end, when Doc returns from the future in the newly modified DeLorean.

Running low on gas, Doc searches the rubbish bin, finds a banana peel and pops it into the gas tank, which is branded “Mr Fusion”. Presumably the machine mulched it into it’s atoms then did some fandangled thing (like fusing them) that produced more energy than a bolt of lightning.

Unlikely? Well I guess so at this stage in human development. It was from the future though!

Anyway, the point of this dribble is that someone has claimed to have invented the 21st century equivalent, which I would like to refer to as “Mr Combustion

But first things first. Today, here at the plant at Philadelphia’s Naval Business Center, the experimental feedstock is turkey processing-plant waste: feathers, bones, skin, blood, fat, guts.

A forklift dumps 1,400 pounds of the nasty stuff into the machine’s first stage, a 350-horsepower grinder that masticates it into gray brown slurry. From there it flows into a series of tanks and pipes, which hum and hiss as they heat, digest, and break down the mixture.

Two hours later, a white-jacketed technician turns a spigot. Out pours a honey-colored fluid, steaming a bit in the cold warehouse as it fills a glass beaker.

It really is a lovely oil.

For those who haven’t already switched off in disbelief, the machine can apparently turn any sort of rubbish you throw into it into a fairly useful mixture of Oil, Minerals and Distilled Water.

If a 175-pound man fell into one end, he would come out the other end as 38 pounds of oil, 7 pounds of gas, and 7 pounds of minerals, as well as 123 pounds of sterilized water.

By these ratios, If Michael Moore fell in, the amount of oil produced would be enough for an entire Grand Prix season.

Apart from those mind-boggling facts, the main question is, how much energy does it take to run the bloody thing? Not as much as you would think:

Thermal depolymerization, Appel says, has proved to be 85 percent energy efficient for complex feedstocks, such as turkey offal: “That means for every 100 Btus in the feedstock, we use only 15 Btus to run the process.”

He contends the efficiency is even better for relatively dry raw materials, such as plastics.

Of course, you have to take these things with a grain of salt. If it was the amazing breakthrough that it seems, then surely it would be getting more coverage than this small article.

In any case, my dream of a “Mr Fusion” powered car has been revived, at least until this gets debunked.

(Thanks to Stewart Kelly for the link)

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