Slash
Bacteria Powered Rocket Thrusters

An sustainable fuel system that makes use of potentially hazardous byproducts.

Lisa Baldini
Lisa Baldini on July 28, 2010.

In a move that builds on current ecological processes to create energy, Stanford researchers are developing a system that turns sewage waste into rocket fuel. Exploiting the fact that bacteria operate in high concentration in sewage waste, researchers are looking to turn their byproduct, nitrous oxide (laughing gas), into a viable energy source for rocket thrusters:

Stanford professor Brian Cantwell specializes in designing rocket thrusters that run on nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas. He and some of his grad students wanted to use nitrous oxide as an emissions-free energy source. While nitrous oxide is a powerful greenhouse gas, when it’s burned as rocket fuel, the only byproducts are hot oxygen and nitrogen.

The development of the substance as fuel is an answer to the problem that excess nitrous oxide had previously presented waste management systems. Although anaerobic bacteria are more cost effective for sewage treatment, their byproduct proved to be another costly and dangerous obstacle to resolve. The sewage/bacteria/rocket thruster fuel conversion system presented here accounts for each byproduct with as little environmental impact as possible.

Brian Cantwell

Popular Science: “Stanford Researchers Developing Rocket-Powered Sewage Treatment System”

TOPICS: Design & Architecture, Electronics & Gadgets, Environmental / Green, Science
TAGS:
Lisa Baldini

Recent Articles By Lisa Baldini RSS

Lisa Baldini is a regular contributor to PSFK.com. As a student of Graham Harwood, Luciana Parisi, and Matthew Fuller, Lisa's interest in technology lies in how culture is changed from the bottom up through history, materiality, databases, user experience, and affective computing. A student of social media marketing, she sees how people try to engage consumers through technology and how much failure is at hand by misunderstanding the medium. A teacher at heart, she writes and curates in an effort to link the knowledge derived between the academic, art, and business worlds.

more...

Thinking...