07/20/2017 at 07:33 •
Our world population is rapidly increasing, by 2050 it is expected we're expected to hit the 9 billion people mark. Therefore it's necessary to be more efficient with natural resources as there will be a higher demand for food while more trash will be generated. Meanwhile, the carbon dioxide that for centuries has had an atmospheric concentration below 300 ppm, in the last 7 decades has been rising alarmingly, through natural processes as animal respiration and volcano eruptions, but most importantly through human activities as deforestation, land usage changes, and burning fossil fuels, contributing to a Global Warming that can potentially generate inconveniences to the environment, as sea level rise, global temperature shifts, warming oceans, extreme weather events, among others.
In an effort to address some of the environmental challenges the world is going to be facing, help sequester carbon, and bring back nutrients we take from the soil as we harvest our food, the TerraPreta team is currently developing a prototype of a high temperature and pressure reactor, as an improved version of the technique used in the past by the Brazilian Aboriginals to produce Terra Preta, a term in Portuguese that refers to Black Soil, product of the anaerobic charring of their Organic Waste into a Charcoal commonly named Biochar.
Our first goal is to develop and validate a process that efficiently converts various types of organic waste into what we currently know as biochar, a stable solid rich in carbon, which holds promising characteristics such as an increased fertility and water retention in the soil, promoting a better yield in agricultural production, while it helps with carbon sequestering as well as reintroducing nutrients for new crops. This high water retention would also improve the usage of water in agriculture in the State of California, which currently represents about 50% of the total water consumption, as well as in other areas, as was validated by the success case of Rwanda that was recently visited by personnel of the Water Resources Group of the UCLA IoES to study this kind of process.
In these first steps, our plan is to develop the Biochar Reactor Prototype and earn additional funding to further streamline and develop the process. Then showcase this as a toilet 2.0 candidate and valid waste management and repurposing system for use in developing nations. We also aim to come with a version that can be used by the RV & tiny home community, and properly scaling it, for LEED certified green buildings to manage the organic waste directly in the place it's produced. We have been approached in the past weeks by the California Department of Food and Agriculture to assess how this reactor can be used by farmers, and we also had an initial inquiry from the Army, as they seek alternative energy sources, in this case, obtained from biomass. We are planning to include testing cases to better understand the production of energy. The final goal is to adapt the design for its widespread use around the world.
With the advantage of the Internet, we have checked out different kinds of reactors that are used to produce Biochar around the world, finding that our prototype has great characteristics, like using a continuous process, having a wide feedstock flexibility, the possibility to control it remotely using the Particle Electron (3G) to remotely access the system, and fine tuning of the operating conditions to produce more Biochar or more Energy, we also aim for a very low production cost with mostly off-the-shelf components, among others that we'll keep adding to our project updates.
The current cost of the prototype is about USD 750, however, this prototype was clearly over-engineered to cover many testing scenarios, for each particular use case we want to redesign it with with a lower production cost in order to make it more accessible to its different potential users. For inquiries, the TerraPreta Team is integrated by two members, Leonardo Zuniga and Ricardo Martinez. We assume that a modest funding of about $2500/month plus materials for about a year would allow us to properly design and validate an alpha model for a commercial application.
07/18/2017 at 19:55 •
During our Temperature Behavior tests we found that the heat that was being introduced to the system was not enough to get to the desired working temperature, and although it was not necessarily a bad value (just below 400ºC), it required to be increased. At the same time, we could determine that the first version of our insulation cover was working, but in order to increase the temperature to its maximum possible values avoiding all potential losses, we required to enhance that part of the system. We modified our initial prototype with a larger heating element and a thicker insulating layer to keep the heat inside the reactor, also we noticed that the first prototype was very difficult to service, so we changed the design as a series of pieces that fitted modularly. Here we present to you our new prototype:
We're satisfied to report that in preliminary temperature behavior tests, we got a considerably higher temperature (>700ºC) than the one initially achieved, thus assuring that the system is already able to process the organic waste into Biochar. In the next Logs, we'll be providing more information about how the system is working.
07/01/2017 at 05:25 •
Our TerraPreta Biochar Prototype Reactor is ready to be operated, and our first task after have assembled it is to do a Temperature Behavior to understand how the flows of heat are present in the system and what are the range of temperature we are able to get in order to ensure that the pyrolysis reaction will be completed satisfactorily. Below you can see two 3D models printed in PLA filament (the white and gray models at the right of the first picture) and the prototype (at the left of the first picture and in the second picture), ready to be turned on.
06/27/2017 at 01:47 •
From April 4th to June 9th, we had the privilege to be part of the lectures "The World in 2050" of Prof. Carl Pabo, who was visiting us at the Supplyframe Design Lab last week. We had the opportunity to show Carl the advances of our project, what we expect of it in the short term and what are our plans in the following months, and at the same time, to receive excellent feedback from him to improve and use our prototype.
We want to thank Dan Hienzsch, Resident Engineer of the Supplyframe Design Lab for his support Tormaching the Reactor's Stuffing Box, that is going to be allowing us to create a sealed system to rotate the auger shaft while preventing gas losses, and keeping the inside pressure.
In the following pictures we can see part of the process to create the first part of the Reactor's Stuffing Box:
06/18/2017 at 04:26 •
It is great to see how our MK1 Prototype is close to be completed to start producing Biochar, and in the picture below you can take a look of it. During the last weeks we have been working on the details of what components to use and as well what are going to be our operation conditions that will allow us to be having the desired results.
06/04/2017 at 02:20 •
Thinking about the future of our project, for when it becomes a finished product to be sold, and our customers start to request support at home or green buildings, we have been planning to incorporate a remote telecommunications system that will allow us to start and/or finish each process from a control center application, that also will be capable of reporting in real time the health and different operation conditions of the reactor. In a way, it will simplify and streamline its operation, effectively making it an IoT device and on the other hand, allowing us to gather statistics about usage, efficiency, and yield
We are going to be using a Particle Electron (3G) to have access to our prototype on the Internet:
Among other functions of the Particle Electron (3G) we have access to:
The Electron makes it easy to connect your product to a cellular network. It's FCC/CE/IC/PTCRB certified to comply with any cellular standard.
Fully integrated hardware, cellular network to the cloud
The Electron Series has the hardware, SIM card, global network and cloud services to provide for a smooth experience. Fully integrated and activated, the Electron is pre-certified and efficiently built to reduce data costs.
Global SIM and Data Plan
IoT products are no longer limited to a smart home or office. With the Electron, your products can work with 100+ countries' cellular networks.
Easy Setup and Comprehensive Development Tools
Start configuring your Electron in minutes. With our mobile app Tinker and customer portal, you can walk through the setup process effortlessly. Our tools provide help if you need it, from troubleshooting guides to experts in our community.
A full toolkit of Cloud applications
The Particle Cloud's a suite of tools allows you to manage all of your SIMs in one place. Easily configure your 2G and 3G applications on the cloud.
- Write and manage Firmware on a set of several development environment options
- Experiment and troubleshoot with our mobile apps
- Manage your devices, their SIMs, and the cellular data they consume through the Console
- U-Blox SARA U260/U270 (3G) or G350 (2G)
- Telefonica global SIM card
- Particle IoT data plan - Plans vary based on usage and location. See here for specifics.
- STM32F205 ARM Cortex M3 microcontroller
- 1MB Flash
- 128K RAM
- 30 mixed-input GPIOs with advanced peripherals
- 36 pins total: 28 GPIOs (D0-D13, A0-A13), plus TX/RX, 2 GNDs, VIN, VBAT, WKP, 3V3, RST
- Power management circuit included on-board
- Board dimensions: 2.0" x 0.8" x 0.3" (0.5" including headers)
- Open source hardware
- FCC, IC and CE pre-certified, See here for product by product certifications.
CC BY-SA 3.0: Creative Commons Share-alike 3.0.
GNU Lesser General Public License v3 (LGPL-3.0)
06/02/2017 at 02:05 •
It was an inspiriting experience to be in the Maker Faire Bay Area, in San Mateo, California, and to see too much people trying to make something different that would be useful in our times, and improving what already exist to enjoy a better world.
In the event we had the opportunity to meet sellers of the Particle Electron 3G Cellular Development Kits, and we took the advantage to start figuring out how to apply the use of this product to our prototype, sending us updates of the process of our prototype in real time to our cellphones, and it is something that we are going to be introducing you with more details in the following logs.
And of course, we took the opportunity to sigh seen part of San Francisco, its culture and the famous Golden Gate.
06/02/2017 at 01:36 •
The components continue arriving in its original version to the Lab, and at the same time we are creating a duplicate version of it in Polylactide to be able to show it in a easier way, as shown in the picture bellow:
Today was our last discussion class at Caltech "The World at 2050" by Carl Pabo (http://carlpabo.com) and we really want to thanks Carl for giving us the opportunity to assist to its lectures. It was a great experience that we want to repeat it soon.
05/19/2017 at 17:18 •
The components of our prototype has started arriving to the Supplyframe Design Lab, and we already have the first pieces to start building it.
05/18/2017 at 16:58 •
In the last days we have been looking for what are going to be our components, what are already able to be purchased in store or online, and what of them need to be built, and the Insulating Section is one of the parts that definitely needs to be built, and in the picture below we can see how this process is being processed:
The inner tube is being completely covered by a wire, and as well a removable 6-millimeters-layer that is going to allow us to generate an empty space between the inner tube and the insulating material where the electrical resistances are going to be at to heat the pyrolysis reactor.
As an intermediate result of the process, we show you in the picture below how the insulating material is already done: