METAL – THE NEXT BIG FUEL?

According to a new report from researchers at McGill University, powdered metal fuels could be an effective replacement for the fossil fuels we currently rely on: coal, oil and natural gas. As well as providing an alternative energy source, powdered metals would significantly slash carbon emissions and environmental damage.

Not only do grains of powdered metal contain more energy per liter than any conventional fuel, but the fuel may be recyclable in some cases. By grinding the metal, the ratio between the surface area and volume of the grains is vastly increased – making a ‘better’ burning product.

However, it is important to note that the powder would not be a primary energy source like petroleum, but rather a storage medium for energy sources such as nuclear or hydroelectric power.

Whilst this technology may seem promising, there are considerable downsides in that: this method is currently not cost-competitive, and the investment in heavy mining equipment to obtain these metals would likely off-set any carbon saved in the actual burning of the metal. Additionally, developments in battery capacity and efficiency still lag behind, making it difficult for powdered metals to be used effectively as an alternative fuel source.

Despite this, the rapid pace of development and modern technology may mean that we see powdered metal as a viable energy alternative in the not-so-distant future!

Image: Stabilized flames of different metal powders burning with air, compared to a methane-air flame (Credit: Alternative Fuels Laboratory/McGill University)

Bill Gates’s Shipping Containers Turn POOP into Energy!

Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft literally threw millions of dollars into toilet as he together with his wife invested $42 million in a competition of designing toilet systems for developing countries. In the competition Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering presented a creative solution that uses shipping containers to sanitize human waste.

duke University

The university was offered a $1.18 million grant of its idea of turning human waste into energy.  The sanitation solution that starts with the individual and the toilet, includes the storage, transportation and treatment of human waste, and ends, ideally, with safe, usable by products such as fertilizer, fuel or clean water.

As the diagram above shows, human waste goes to an underground shipping container. This 20-foot shipping container uses enough heat and pressure to drive the internal water into so called ‘supercritical phase‘. Supercritical water can oxidize the waste and produce a sterile combination of water, carbon dioxide and salts. It also produces a lot of heat that can be directed back to the system or, say, to a power generator.

Supercritical Water Oxidization, portable sewage treatment, shipping container sewage treatment center, bill and melinda gates foundation, Duke Pratt School of Engineering, eco design, green design, raw sewage treatment, Reinvent the Toilet, sustainable design

The World Health Organization has stated that there 2.4 billion people that do not have access to any type of improved sanitation facility. In addition, about two million people die every year of diarrheal diseases; most of them being children under five years of age. Just like container hospitals and Coca-Cola’s container kiosks, the new container toilet system is a new example of how shipping containers can save lives!

20ft GP_Container 1.JPG

Shipping containers are an excellent tool for conducting CSR campaigns in developing countries. As the examples of Coca-Cola, Samsung and now Bill Gates go to show, shipping containers are worth more than their steel structure. It is the value that comes from the creative minds utilizing containers that makes a difference. We in Shanghai Metal Corporation are really proud of offering these instruments. Please see more information about our shipping containers in our website or just send us an inquiry. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.

SMC QR code

 

Tuomas P. // SMC Editor

Pictures and original articles: Top 10 rate, The World Health Organization, Duke University, Inhabitat, Treehugger