If there are any two problems that need tackling in our world it’s the lack of clean energy and the overabundance of garbage. Now a company called Sierra Energy might have a solution called the FastOx Pathfinder that takes care of both problems by converting trash into energy. It’s not just a dream project thought up by Doc Brown from Back to the Future either. It really works and Sierra Energy’s first customer? The United States Army.

The FastOx Pathfinder is essentially a gasifier system, which heats any kind of trash you throw into it—whether it be banana peels, broken glass, or even metal—at 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit. At this extreme temperature matter doesn’t just melt, it breaks down at the molecular level into its foundational elements. The chemical reaction produces a renewable fuel known as Syngas, which is comprised of hydrogen and carbon monoxide. This mix of gasses can then be burned to produce electricity.

Despite creating such an extreme energy producing procedure, the FastOx Pathfinder does not use combustion. Instead the shower stall sized unit introduces a mix of oxygen and steam to essentially bake trash in a chamber. As this happens organic material is vaporized into gasses to become fuel. Inorganic compounds also under go a partial oxidizing process as well and metals can be recycled too.

Originally, the FastOx Pathfinder was never meant to create energy or recycle waste as it actually started off as a modified blast heater used to make steel. The technology that makes the FastOx uniquely efficient as a gasifier was originally created by Bruce Claflin, a retired chief industrial engineer, along with his colleague John Jasbinsek at Kaiser Steel in Fontana, California to increase the efficiency of the plant’s blast heater while making it less polluting.

Years after the Kaiser Steel plant closed in 1983, the patents for the technology traded hands from Claflin to his grandson Chris Kasten and finally Mike Hart, the Sierra Energy president. For the last several years at a retired Air Force hangar outside Sacramento, Sierra Energy has been testing its waste-to-energy system.

So far, the FastOx Pathfinder has proven itself in tests; in a four hour trial, the gasifier converted one ton of waste into enough gas to produce 1,580 kilowatt-hours of electricity. According to The New York Times, this is enough energy to power an average home in the United States for about a month and a half. The Army meanwhile is extremely interested in a system will not only let them reduce the money spent on petroleum, but also eliminate the need for trash-burning on bases that produces noxious odors and pollution.

Via The New York Times and Sierra Energy

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