I'm excited to say that I've begun to fabricate for Allpower Labs, makers of the only commercially available complete gasifier kit. Joining the crew was a meeting of minds; I've always been a "power hacker" of sorts and this is a chance to work with some folks at the forefront of this technology. Allpower is located in The Shipyard, an Oakland shipping-container based art & energy space.
A gasifier is old technology. Back before Standard Oil and BP and all the old cronies decided to get us hooked on oil, newly emerging engine technology was designed to run on agricultural byproducts. We were a farming country and it just made sense. The diesel engine was designed to run on vegetable oils and the gasoline engine could run on wood gas, propane, or the product of a gasifier.
Basically you stuff anything that burns (such as available byproducts like coffee grounds or walnut shells) into a bucket and burn it at a high temperature in an oxygen starved environment. Gases are produced which you run through some filters then guff into the carb of an engine or generator.
To explain it extremely simply, it's a fire in a bucket. The fire is starved of oxygen. Complex hydrocarbons are broken down into carbon monoxide and hydrogen. The gas passes through a few filters and is guffed into your engine's carb. Pretty straightforward. The fidgeting is just to get it to burn clean, which it can do much better than a gasoline engine.
So why doesn't everyone do this? Well, they did, back in the day. It popped up again in Germany during the war when they couldn't get any petroleum. You see pictures of gasifiers on the back of buses in China. It takes some fidgeting to get it right, which means it's not push-button idiot-proof, which is pretty much the standard for product design these days. But can you run your car on pecan shells, wood chips, agricultural waste, or construction debris? Absolutely. With clean emissions. And the byproduct is an excellent soil conditioner!
Most of Allpower's customers are researchers, bunker people, and alternative energy enthusiasts. Anybody with a source of biomass such as horse manure or corn husks can buy one of these units and run a generator off of it pretty easily for free power. The company's business is booming, we have orders out the wazoo and are making them as quick as we can. The shop produces about five to seven a week.
Next year we'll be competing in an alternative fuels race for the Automotive X-prize.
Keep an eye on my Youtube channel
for videos about how gasification works.