The answers are blowin' the in the wind

A project log for Metabolizer - A recycling center powered by trash!

A deployable power plant that eats trash and turns it into energy, electricity, fuel, and eventually very nearly anything else.

Sam SmithSam Smith 09/14/2018 at 22:400 Comments

I've been using SketchUp badly for many many years, and over the years I've slowly gotten pretty good at it. It's now my go-to sandbox for designing stuff. I wish I could use a more full-featured program Rhino/Grasshopper or Fusion 360, but alas, sometimes you gotta stick with what you know. 

My approach for this project was to create 2 different Sketchup models- a concept model that I can use to explore the shapes and dimensions and aesthetics I want, unconstrained by annoying things like "reality" or "physics" or "how thing actually fit together", and then a working model, that reflects as best as possible what I have actually built. Then I work to systematically bridge the gap between theory and practice. 

I really love the toroidal shape of the electromagnetic field, and that's been guiding my design for this. It helps that most of the tubing I've been working with comes in coils, which makes it easy to pull and sculpt them into cool-looking spirals and helices. 

The tapered shape of the patio heater I'm using as my support structure for the distillation tower lends itself well to that shape, but only half of it. To get the balanced look I want, I'm trying design a lightweight turbine that goes on top, to balance out the look of the thing for that nice vortex feel.

So I started playing around with using stacked rectangles that are off-set from each other, in order to get an nice dynamic vortex shape, while still using rectangular layers that are easy to cut. My idea is to use coroplast, which is one of my very favorite materials.

It's the stuff that political lawn signs are made of, it's widely available both new and in the waste stream (particularly during and after election cycles...) its extremely durable, lightweight, easy to cut, score, fold, bend... it's just a really great material to work with. And it's made out of Polypropylene (#5) plastic, which is reasonably UV resistant, strong, non-toxic and heat weldable. Neat!

So my current plan is to see if I can take a bunch of Political lawn signs, impale them all on a stake, and see if I can use it to generate energy from wind and/or the updraft created by the hot exhaust gases. This is admittedly more of an aesthetic design choice than an efficiency/engineering choice, but it makes use of a common and widely available waste product, and I think there's something poetic about repurposing political propaganda to generate clean energy.