Monday, July 23, 2007

Turning Car Emissions Into Green Fuel

Three fishermen from Wales have invented a box that can be fixed to the exhaust outlet of any vehicle and safely capture greenhouse gas emissions.

However, in addition to reducing the vehicle emissions by 85% to 95%, the Greenbox goes one step further by providing the raw ingredients for new biofuel production. Once full, the Greenbox can be detached from the vehicle and sent to a bioreactor where it provides food to algae that can then be converted to bio-diesel.

Through a chemical reaction, the captured gases from the box would be fed to algae, which would then be crushed to produce a bio-oil. This extract can be converted to produce a biodiesel almost identical to normal diesel.

This biodiesel can be fed back into a diesel engine, the emptied Greenbox can be affixed to the car and the cycle can begin again.

The process also yields methane gas and fertilizer, both of which can be captured separately. The algae required to capture all of Britain's auto emissions would take up around 1,000 acres


Although there are no immediate plans for production, the product has gained the attention of UK Labour MP David Hansen, and Toyota and GM have reportedly spoken to the inventors. Facilities and infrastructure are obviously lacking for both the mass production of the Greenbox and the associated biofuel production chain. However, at the bare minimum the announcement shows the sort of ecological and self sustaining solutions that are waiting to be discovered. Time will tell if it becomes economically viable.

Story via Reuters.

7 comments:

The Mound of Sound said...

It looks like a good idea but is it practical? The chart seems to show a perfect, closed system but it has to leave out a lot. For example there is the cost of establishing and running the capture and exchange system. Then there's the cost of growing and transforming algae into biofuel. Then the cost of distribution. Would the energy used to establish and operate this technology and the associated environmental costs still leave this a viable option?

Sue said...

It seems ingeneous, except that I'm just trying to imagine what would be involved in "removing" the green box every time you filled up for fuel. How many harried folks running late for work or to get home to fix dinner for the kids are going to want to stand on their head to remove this box every time they get gas?

Rob said...

So the vehicle emissions can be fed to algae, who in turn help produce a biodiesel? Who would have predicted that mankind's future could depend on us taking up a new symbiosis with... algae? However, some questions:

1.How long does it take to generate the actual fuel itself? If it takes 10-15 minutes, people aren’t going to want to wait.
2.What’s the cost, even when it’s scaled into commercial production?
3.What’s the useful life of a GreenBox?
4.Are other externalities such as noise a problem?
5.How does it interact with catalytic converters?
6.Will it ever be able to be scaled-up and retrofitted into fossil-fuel power stations?

Saying this, I really do hope that it works!

Joffan said...

Claims like this always leave me contemplating thermodynamics and chemistry...

There truly is no free lunch, and the energy extracted from the cycle to power the vehicle must be added back in, and then some, in order to close the loop. Of course the recycled diesel may be only part of the energy, but there does seem to be a semi-magical implication of a fully-closed fuel supply loop.

The box will certainly have to be bigger than the fuel tank to capture all the greenhouse gases from one tank-full of fuel, and weigh rather more when full. Awkward handling at best, but at least it suggests that the changeout will have to be synchronous and physically coincident with refueling.

Interesting story but almost certainly oversold in the article.

Odiyya said...

Interesting point on the size of the capture device. After you posted i found this.

Apparently carbon dioxide only makes up about 15% of exhaust. the bulk of the rest is water vapour and nitrogen, which makes sense as nitrogen and oxygen are the primary elements in the air that goes into the intake prior to combustion.

Fuel is primarily carbon and hydrogen. The carbon combines with oxygen to produce C02, the hydrogen combines with oxygen to produce water. Nitrogen forms the bulk of atmospheric air and simply passes through unchanged.

But you're right, this clearly is not a production ready device. lets hope they get it to that point.

luis said...

Cool Post!
I think any resource we can use to help us be a greener planet is of great help.
If the economics don't work, recycling efforts won't either.
As our little contribution to make this economics of recycling more appealing, http://LivePaths.com blogs about people and companies that make money selling recycled or reused items, provide green services or help us reduce our dependency on non renewable resources.

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