Rocket Stove Efficiently Heats Water

Rocket stoves are an interesting, if often overlooked, method for cooking or for generating heat. Designed to use biomass that might otherwise be wasted, such as wood, twigs, or other agricultural byproducts, they are remarkably efficient and perform relatively complete combustion due to their design, meaning that there are fewer air quality issues caused when using these stoves than other methods. When integrated with a little bit of plumbing, they can also be used to provide a large amount of hot water to something like an off-grid home as well.

[Little Aussie Rockets] starts off the build by fabricating the feed point for the fuel out of steel, and attaching it to a chimney section. This is the fundamental part of a rocket stove, which sucks air in past the fuel, burns it, and exhausts it up the chimney. A few sections of pipe are welded into the chimney section to heat the water as it passes through, and then an enclosure is made for the stove to provide insulation and improve its efficiency. The rocket stove was able to effortlessly heat 80 liters of water to 70°C in a little over an hour using a few scraps of wood.

The metalworking skills of [Little Aussie Rockets] are also on full display here, which makes the video well worth watching on its own. Rocket stoves themselves can be remarkably simple for how well they work, and can even be built in miniature to take on camping trips as a lightweight alternative to needing to carry gas canisters, since they can use small twigs for fuel very easily. We’ve also seen much larger, more complex versions designed for cooking huge amounts of food.

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A Simple Stove, Built For Beans

Sitting around a campfire or fireplace is an aesthetically pleasing experience in most situations, and can even provide some warmth. But unless you have a modern wood-burning appliance, it’s likely that most of the energy available in the biomass is escaping as un-burned vapors. Surprisingly, solving this problem is almost as easy as buying a can of beans at the store, and the result is a very efficient stove which can be used for heat in a pinch.

[Robert] is demonstrating this gasifier stove, not with beans but using both a can of peas and a larger can of potatoes. Various holes are drilled in each can in a specific pattern, and then the smaller pea can is fitted inside the larger potato can. Once a fire is going, the holes allow for air to flow in a way which traps the escaping un-burned vapors from the fuel and burns them as they flow through the contraption. No moving parts are required; this is all powered by the natural airflow that’s produced by the heat of the fire.

The result of a build like this is not only a stove which can extract a much higher percentage of the available fuel, but also quires much less fuel for a given amount of heat, and produces a much cleaner, less smokey fire. [Robert] also added a screen mantle which allows for this to be used more as a heat source, but similar builds can also be used just as effectively for cooking, too.

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the algae panel

Move Aside Solar, We’re Installing An Algae Panel

[Cody] of Cody’sLab has been bit by what he describes as the algae growing bug. We at Hackaday didn’t know that was a disease floating around, but we’ll admit that we’re not surprised after the last few years. So not content to stick to the small-time algae farms, [Cody] decided to scale up and build a whole algae panel.

Now, why would you want to grow algae? There are edible varieties of algae, you can extract oils from it, and most importantly, it can be pumped around in liquid form. To top it off, all it needs is just sunlight, carbon dioxide, and a few minerals to grow. Unlike those other complicated land-based organisms that use photosynthesis, algae don’t need to build any structure to hold themselves up or collect sunlight; it floats.

The real goal of the algae is to build a system known as “Chicken Hole.” The basic idea is to have a self-sufficient system. The algae feed the insects, the insects feed the chickens, and so on up the chain until it reaches [Cody]. While glass would make an ideal material for the algae tubes, plastic soda bottles seem like a decent proxy for a prototype and are much cheaper. He connected around 100 half-liter bottles to form long tubes and a PVC distribution system. The algae needs to be pumped into an insulated container to prevent it from freezing at night. At first, a simple timer outlet controlled the pump to only run during the day, draining it via gravity at night. However, the algae can’t heat up enough when running on cloudy, cold winter days, and it cools off. A solar panel and a temperature sensor form the logic for the pump, with a minimum temperature and sunlight needed to run.

[Cody] mentions that he can expect around 10 grams of algae per day on a panel this size in the winter. He’s going to need quite a few more if he’s going to scale up properly. Perhaps in the future, we’ll see panels growing algae robots? Video after the break.

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Regular coffee grounds and lab-grown coffee.

Is Lab-Grown Coffee Worth A Hill Of Beans?

Historically, coffee has needed two things to grow successfully — a decent altitude and a warm climate. Now, a group of scientists from the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland have managed to grow coffee in a lab. They started by culturing coffee plant cells, and then planted them in bioreactors full of nutrient-rich growing medium. But they didn’t grow plants. Instead of green beans inside coffee cherries, the result is a whitish powdered biomass that resembles pure caffeine. Then the scientists roasted the powder as you would beans, and report that it smells and tastes just like regular coffee.

There are plenty of problems percolating with the coffee industry that make this an attractive alternative — mostly worker exploitation, unsustainable farming methods, and land rights issues. And the Bean Belt, which stretches from Ethiopia to South America to Southeast Asia is getting too hot. On top of all that, coffee production is driving deforestation in Vietnam and elsewhere, although coffee could help the forests regenerate more quickly.

Coffee purists shouldn’t be dismayed, because variety is still possible using varying cell cultures to dial in the caffeine level and the flavors. We’ll drink to that.

Another thing in the industry that’s a real grind is coffee cupping, but spectroscopy could soon help determine bean quality.

The Metabolizer Turns Trash Into Treasure

The amount of stuff we humans throw away is too damn high, and a bunch of it harms the ecosystem. But what are you gonna do? [Sam Smith] thinks we can do better than shoving most of it in a landfill and waiting for it to break down. That’s why he’s building The Metabolizer. It’s a series of systems designed to turn household trash (including plastic!) into useful things like fuel, building materials, and 3D prints.

The idea is to mimic the metabolism of a living organism and design something that can break down garbage into both useful stuff and fuel for itself. [Sam] is confident that since humans figured out how to make plastic, we can figure out a system to metabolize it. His proof-of-concept plan is to break down waste into combustible, gaseous fuel and use that fuel to power a small engine. The engine will power an open-source plastic shredder and turn a generator that powers an open-source plastic pellet printer like the SeeMeCNC Part Daddy.

Shredding plastic for use as a biomass requires condensing out the tar and hydrocarbons. This process leaves carbon monoxide and hydrogen syngas, which is perfect for running a Briggs & Stratton from Craigslist that’s been modified to run on gaseous fuel. Condensation is a nasty process that we don’t advise trying unless you know what you’re doing. Be careful, [Sam], because we’re excited to watch this one progress. You can watch it chew up some plastic after the break.

If [Sam] ever runs out of garbage to feed The Metabolizer, maybe he could build a fleet of trash-collecting robots.

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