THERMAL TREATMENT SYSTEM AND METHOD
A improved solar biochar reactor, system including the reactor, and methods of forming and using the reactors and systems are disclosed. The methods and system as described herein provide sufficient solar energy to a biochar reactor to convert animal waste or other biomass to biochar in a relatively cost-effective manner.
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This application claims the right of priority based on U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 61/663,095 entitled “SYSTEM AND METHOD FOR THERMAL TREATMENT OF ANIMAL WASTE” filed on Jun. 22, 2012, which is incorporated herein by reference and assigned to the assignee herein.FIELD OF THE INVENTION
The present disclosure generally relates to thermal treatment systems and methods. More particularly, exemplary embodiments of the disclosure relate to systems and methods that use solar thermal processes to produce biochar from biomass.BACKGROUND OF THE DISCLOSURE
Animal waste, such as human waste, can be an agent that carries and/or transmits infectious pathogens. Accordingly, such waste is often treated. Typical sewage treatment requires significant infrastructure and large-scale plants to treat the waste. Unfortunately, such systems may not be suitable in developing areas or where such large-scale, high-infrastructure systems are not practical.
Biochar reactors can be used to treat animal waste in areas where typical sewage treatment systems are not practical. A typical biochar production reactor relies on combustion of material to provide the necessary heat to convert biomass into one or more desired products. Unfortunately, use of combustion to heat the reactor may generate unwanted greenhouse gases.
Other bioreactors may rely on sunlight to produce requisite reactor temperatures for conversion of biomass to desired products. To achieve the requisite temperatures for such reactions, the solar reactors use concentrated sunlight. For example, a solar biochar reactor often includes a reactor located at a focus of an imaging optic, such as a parabola. Alternatively, solar furnaces or beam-down towers may be used; however, additional optical elements required for such systems increase the cost of the systems and the systems generally require sophisticated optical devices to achieve the suitably high solar concentrations.
Accordingly, improved solar biochar reactors and methods of forming and using the reactors are desired.SUMMARY OF THE DISCLOSURE
Various embodiments of the present disclosure relate to improved solar biochar reactors, systems including the reactors, and methods of forming and using the reactors and systems. While the ways in which the various drawbacks of the prior art are discussed in greater detail below, in general, a method and system as described herein provide sufficient solar energy to a biochar reactor to convert animal waste or other biomass to biochar in a relatively cost-effective manner.
In accordance with various embodiments of the disclosure, a thermal treatment system includes a solar concentrator having an area of concentrated solar power, one or more fiber optic cables, the one or more fiber optic cables having a first end proximate*the area of concentrated solar power and a second end, a solar reactor coupled to the second end of the one or more fiber optic cables, the reactor comprising, a container to receive material to be treated, and insulating material surrounding the container. In accordance with various aspects of these embodiments, the system is used to treat animal waste, such as human waste. In accordance with further aspects, the thermal treatment system includes a urine diversion device. In accordance with further embodiments, the reactor is a hydrothermal carbonization reactor or a pyrolysis reactor. In accordance with yet additional aspects of these embodiments, the treatment system includes a rotating mechanism to expose a container to the one or more fiber optic cables. And, in accordance with further embodiments, the fiber optic cables are isolated from the reactor and the fiber optic cables may have fused ends. The system may further include a carousel to transfer containers between a treatment area and a collection area.
In accordance with further exemplary embodiments of the disclosure, a method to treat biomass includes providing a solar collector to obtain concentrated solar thermal energy, providing a reactor, providing biomass, such as animal waste, to the reactor, providing concentrated solar thermal energy to the reactor using one or more fiber optic cables, and treating the biomass with the concentrated solar thermal energy. In accordance with various aspects of these embodiments, the method further includes a step of rotating a carousel to expose the reactor or container to one or more fiber optic cables. In accordance with further aspects, the fiber optic cables that are used include fused ends. In accordance with further aspects, the step of treating the biomass with the concentrated solar thermal energy comprises using hydrothermal carbonization or pyrolysis. In accordance with yet further aspects, the method includes condensing water vapor. And, in accordance with yet further aspects, the method includes removing condensable tars within pyrolysis gas using a removable tar trap prior to further treatment or use of a gas. The method may also include removing odor causing compounds from the pyrolysis gas using one or more of a biochar and activated carbon packed filter bed.
In accordance with yet additional exemplary embodiments of the disclosure, a method to treat animal waste includes providing a waste treatment system comprising a solar collector and a reactor, wherein the reactor receives concentrated solar energy from the solar collector, exposing solid waste to the concentrated solar energy in the reactor to produce char; and exposing liquid waste to one or more of concentrated and passive solar energy to treat the liquid waste. In accordance with various aspects of these embodiments, the method further includes a step of rotating a carousel to expose the reactor or a container therein to one or more fiber optic cables. In accordance with further aspects, the fiber optic cables that are used include fused ends. In accordance with further aspects, the step of treating the biomass with the concentrated solar thermal energy comprises using hydrothermal carbonization or pyrolysis. In accordance with yet further aspects, the method includes condensing the water vapor. And, in accordance with yet further aspects, the method includes removing condensable tars within pyrolysis gas using a removable tar trap prior to further treatment or use of a gas. The method may also include removing odor causing compounds from the pyrolysis gas using one or more of a biochar and activated carbon packed filter bed.
The system and method disclosed herein can be used to produce biochar from animal waste, such as human waste, using solar thermal processes, such as ultraviolet/thermal driven disinfection, hydrothermal carbonization, and/or pyrolysis. The system and method can be used for, e.g., solar-driven hydrothermal pyrolysis and treatment of mixed human waste, without need for intensive pre-drying, to produce a char that has advantages in soil applications for agriculture. In addition to treating waste and producing char, other valuable end products may be produced using the system and method described herein.
Both the foregoing summary and the following detailed description are exemplary and explanatory only and are not restrictive of the disclosure or the claimed invention.
The exemplary embodiments of the present invention will be described in connection with the appended drawing figures in which like numerals denote like elements and:
It will be appreciated that elements in the figures are illustrated for simplicity and clarity and have not necessarily been drawn to scale. For example, the dimensions of some of the elements in the figures may be exaggerated relative to other elements to help to improve understanding of illustrated embodiments of the present invention.DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
As set forth in more detail below, the present disclosure provides improved solar biochar reactors, systems including the reactors, and methods of forming and using the reactors and systems. The reactors, systems, and methods may be used to treat biomass, such as animal waste and convert the biomass to biochar, which may be used for various beneficial applications.
The systems and method described herein use concentrated sunlight to obtain desired operating temperatures within a reactor. In traditional solar thermal systems, the reactor or receiver is located at the focus of the imaging optic, which is typically a parabola. Several concepts have been proposed, and a few have been built, which utilize additional optical elements to redirect the concentrated beam to a more convenient location, such as on the ground level. These include solar furnaces and beam-down towers. Additional optical elements for this redirection drive up costs and require the use of sophisticated optical devices to achieve high concentrations. Thus, designing solar thermal reactors where their location is driven by process rather than optical requirements has not been a successful development path for large-scale applications. To overcome these issues, in accordance with various exemplary embodiments of the invention, concentrated sunlight is delivered via fiber optic cables from a concentrated source of sunlight to a reactor.
The concept of solar concentrators using fiber optics for delivery of sunlight was first proposed over thirty years ago (Kato 1976); however, the successful demonstration of this approach was only made possible after the development of improved fiber optic technology for communications. The growth in use of fiber optics for a number of applications outside of solar enabled glass fibers of sufficient purity and low enough cost has spurred their use in solar thermal systems (Peill 1997, Zik 1999, Feuermann 1999). While certainly not a mainstream solar thermal approach, fiber optics-based systems have progressed enough to warrant a recent review article (Kandilli 2009). Small-scale demonstrations have been very encouraging and show the potential for both good performance and achievement of high temperature (Nakamura 2011).
A design of the solar concentrator may depend on a variety of factors, based on, for example, physical properties of the biomass or waste stream to be treated. An estimate of the energy input required for a family of 4 is from about 4,000 to about 14,000 kJ, depending on specific reaction process and the temperature of that process. Energy inputs for families of 10 and shared toilets for 50 individuals are shown in Table 1. If 3 hours per day of solar operation are assumed, the power requirement is about 1300 W of net input to the reactor (using energy estimates for hydrothermal carbonization at 180° C. and accounting for conduction loss to the surrounding ground). For readily achievable values for concentrator reflectivity, secondary reflectivity, intercept factor, fiber bundle fill factor, fiber Fresnel reflections and fiber transmission, the solar efficiency can be estimated to be about 0.46. This efficiency with an average direct irradiance of 800 W/m2 over the operation period requires a mirror area of around 3.6 m2 (diameter about 2.1 m). This size is certainly small enough for use in a single family, developing community setting. Note that with higher efficiency, longer processing time or lower energy requirements, this size could be significantly reduced. A larger scale system supporting 50 people could use an area of about 46 m2. This could be achieved with either multiple smaller units or a decreasing number of larger diameter concentrators. While a smaller family scale system may be desirable in some cases, intermediate and large-scale systems may be scaled for business management applications, where operations and maintenance can be integrated for savings.
The system and method described herein may be particularly suitable for a developing community environment. In this case, local materials can be used. The scale of such a system may depend on the degree to which the local labor force can be trained to build and operate the system, the availability of local materials, the cost for off-site versus local fabrication, and the overall economics of the concept as a business venture. Reactor 102 and solar receiving container 110 can be designed with solar power input scaled accordingly.
In the illustrated system, first container 202 and a second container 204 can be switched between “collecting” and “treatment” positions, as shown in
Urine collected in urine collection container 234 may be treated using solar energy from one or more fiber optic cables 206 or natural or otherwise concentrated sunlight—e.g., urine may be heat treated to temperature and time combinations that can render it disinfected. Alternatively, a means for continuously treating human fecal sludge using a solids-conveying system where an outer solar tube heats up an inner sheathed auger to produce char may be used. Alternatively, the urine could be treated using a thin film flow reactor using germicidal UV light (254 nm). Or, heat energy from the condensation of water vapor generated during solid waste treatment can be used to heat the urine to temperature and time combinations that can render it disinfected. In accordance with other aspects, a jacketed recirculation of urine around a pyrolysis reactor can be used to heat treat urine to temperature and time combinations that can render it disinfected.
When a full collection container (e.g., container 202) is transferred (e.g., via a track and wheel system to a treatment (e.g., pyrolysis) zone, door 214 can be shut and sealed with a handle for the user, e.g., similar to a locking freezer door. The pyrolysis zone includes a gas discharge hole above the waste-filled collection container for product gases, roughly 14.2 m3 of steam and 0.66 m3 of methane per day per family of four, that can be utilized onsite for heating and/or driving electrical generators for lighting and other minor electrical loads. For hydrothermal carbonization (1-ITC), the pyrolysis zone gas discharge can be fitted with a 20 psig pressure-relief valve to allow the reactor to maintain suitable reaction conditions of 180-220° C. and 18 psig. Fiber-optic cables carrying concentrated solar light can be fed into the walls of the pyrolysis zone (e.g., though walls 210), or through a lid of a container to heat the container up to reaction temperature ˜400° C. for conventional pyrolysis.
An estimated maximum energy requirement for the solar powered pyrolysis reaction is at about 14,000 kJ, assuming the system is used by 4 people per day (one household) operating at 34.7 psia and 180° C. An estimated maximum energy requirement, for charring one person's daily waste at varying temperatures is shown in
The product gas stream of the system can be monitored in situ using a gas chromatograph mass spectrometer (GC-MS). Gas products of pyrolysis are predominately CO2 and CH4 but other noxious gases will likely be present in dilute concentrations and to ensure that the reactor gases do not pose an environmental hazard to the user, adjustments can be made to the oxygen content of the reaction environment. Thus, a usable product for heating requirements in the single-user facility or at the local community level can be produced. The system may include additional controls to ensure proper temperature, pressure, and solar radiation control for the solar reactor.
Exemplary materials of construction for the reactor include aluminum and stainless steel, both readily available and affordable. Reaction temperatures are unlikely to reach temperatures above the melting points of such metals or alloys. Additionally or alternatively, corrosion resistant materials such as stainless steel (Inconel, for example) that can also withstand high temperatures may be used. Several options for insulation may be suitable to reduce the energy losses to the environment surrounding the reactor (e.g., soil). Viable options include typical fiberglass insulation, ceramic fiber insulation (alumina or silica), and aerogels.
Design of the reactor may depend of a variety of factors, such as chemistry, namely hydrothermal carbonization (HTC) and conventional pyrolysis, energy requirements, soil amendment characteristics and optimal use of nutrients as described below. Hydrothermal carbonization requires lower reaction temperatures, 180-220° C. but pressures approaching 20 psig while conventional biomass pyrolysis takes place at atmospheric pressures but much higher temperatures, 400-800° C. (Libra, 2011). The design of an HTC reactor addresses pressure and temperature control requirements. At increased pressures and temperatures, failure of the reactor wall could lead to a dangerous release in pressure. In both HTC and pyrolysis reactors, biomass conversion is an exothermic process, which carries increased risk of thermal runaway. Accordingly, reactor design accounts for the thermal properties of the respective system, including heat transfer, fluid flow, and time-dependent temperature profiles. Thermocouples, temperature controllers, and data acquisition software such as LabView or Matlab can be used to aide in the reactor design. Real-time analysis of the gas species generated during pyrolysis is used to optimize reaction conditions and, ultimately, the utility of the biochar. These data are obtained with the use of GC-MS. Evaluations of HTC and conventional pyrolysis can balance energy requirements with nutrient recovery as well as product quality and utility of by-product gases.
An exemplary system may include a pyrheliometer—a device that accurately measures direct solar irradiance. Solar irradiance measurements may be desired to the optimization of the solar concentrator equipment and sun-tracking algorithms. Solar tracking can be accomplished via two pathways: closed- and open-loop control. Closed-loop control utilizes a sun-sensor, which is made up of several small cells around the base of a rod. Throughout the day, the shadow cast down onto the array changes and indicates the position of the sun in the sky. This system would be more expensive than open-loop but has the advantage of feedback control and less risk of error. The control system also includes a resolver or optical encoder to translate the data from the tracking system into a command for motors to adjust the position of the solar concentrator(s). Open-loop control involves motors that will adjust the solar collectors according to a pre-determined program based on latitude, longitude, date and time. This approach, though more affordable, has a high risk of error and may require extra maintenance and monitoring from a trained technician. If solar tracking is desired, a small PV system may be used to power the tracking motor.
Biochar, a value added product from the system and method described herein, has been utilized to improve agricultural soil fertility, sequester carbon, control transport of environmental contaminants, and remove pesticides as a water filter media (although the latter is not envisioned as a use for the latrine waste biochar). The processes for generation of biochar also produce gases that can be used as cooking and heating fuel or supplemental energy for the biochar production.
Biochar applied to soil can improve soil structure, water retention and lower the acidity of the soil (Winsley, 2007). Biochar material has high surface area which is capable of supporting microbiota and encouraging healthy biological activity in the soil. These microbiota act as catalysts in reducing nitrogen loss, making nutrients more available to plants. Biochar is made up of 70-80% carbon, a much more condensed quantity when compared to the biomass it is generated from. When it is placed in the soil, this carbon is permanently sequestered in this highly stable form for a net reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (Roberts, 2010). For this reason it has been proposed as an avenue for carbon sequestration credits and therefore these systems could be proliferated (multiplied to many locales) by revenue generated from selling carbon credits.
Two major factors that may impact the quality of a biochar include manufacturing conditions and the biomass (feedstock) used. Exemplary manufacturing methods include pyrolysis and hydrothermal carbonization (HTC) as these achieve high mass yield during the process and generate biochar with characteristics good for soil amendment (Funke & Ziegler, 2010; Winsley, 2007; Kumar & Gupta, 2009). Pyrolysis of animal waste and wastewater sludge have shown to generate effective biochar for soil amendments; more effective in agricultural field studies than cellulose/wood based feedstock (Meyer et al., 2011; Libra et al., 2011; Steinbeiss, 2009). A potential for generation of fuel from the gases created during pyrolysis has also been documented (Ro et al., 2010). One study has been conducted which evaluates pyrolysis of fresh human waste (US Army, 1974). This study verified that human waste could be converted into a more compact and sterile material.
For the reactor design, HTC has the advantage that no energy intensive pre-drying is necessary and because the waste is mixed (the waste includes solids and urine) it is thought that nutrients from the urine (as urine contains at least triple the mass of N, P and K of feces) will be taken up by the biochar, which would produce a nutrient enhanced biochar. Dry pyrolysis does not require a pressure rated reaction vessel and can be designed to use passive solar drying or rapid dewatering as the first phase of the solar pyrolysis process.
In the case of HTC, biochar can be generated in a pressure-rated metal reaction vessel and heated to the desired temperature under autogeneous pressure. The temperatures may range from about 150-300° C., with 200° C. expected to be optimal (Libra et al., 2011). The residence times at these temperatures range from about 10 to 90 minutes. For dry pyrolysis, the wet urine and fecal material can be collected in an open vessel and placed in an oven to be heated to the desired temperature. Dry pyrolysis will require higher temperatures between about 400-800° C. and the residence time will also be much greater because pyrolysis cannot begin until the liquid is evaporated away. Once the feedstock is dried to constant mass, subsequent pyrolysis times range from about 30 to 90 minutes.
Ultimate and proximate analysis of the char can be conducted, including C, N, H, S, elemental analysis, fixed carbon, moisture content, volatile matter, and ash content. Macro and micronutrients can be quantified by following ashing-digestion protocol and analyzing the samples with an Axial Spectrometer (P and K can be measured using an inductively coupled plasma (ICP) atomic emissions spectroscopy (AES)). The biochar product can be analyzed by field emission scanning electron microscopy (FESEM) to examine pore structure. Surface area of all resulting biochar can be measured using the method of Brunauer, Emmett and Teller (BET). Thermogravimetric analysis (TGA) can be conducted as well as Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) analysis in order to isolate the types of functional groups before and after charring.
It is expected that the biochar yield will be 45-60% for HTC and 20-35% for dry pyrolysis. The oxygen to carbon (O/C) ratio should decrease in the conversion to biochar and the HTC generated biochar will have a higher O/C ratio compared to that of dry pyrolysis. The abundance of oxygen-rich organic compounds on the surface of the biochar generated by HITC adds cation exchange capacity (Kumar, 2011). In general a successful soil amendment should have an O/C ratio of less than 0.2 (Spokas, 2010), a volatile matter content less than 20% (Deenik, 2010), and a BET SA of at least 15 m2/g. (Brewer et al., 2011). Additionally, biochar successful as a soil amendment should exhibit a low intrinsic pH, high aromaticity, and lower ash content (Brewer et al., 2011). It is expected that higher amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus will be found in the HTC biochar as the urine is combined with feces. There is evidence of higher nitrogen content with wastewater sludge processed by HTC, but never with mixed fresh human excreta (Hossain et al. 2010). The option of separation of urine and feces may determine biochar quality, energy requirements and nutrient recovery optimization.
Pyrolysis of the combined urine and feces may mineralize the nutrients found in human excreta, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, making them bioavailable for plants. At a biochar yield of 45%, an ideal 9 g of nitrogen and 1 g of phosphorus could be recovered per person per day through the HTC process (Torondel, 2010). Nitrogen and phosphorus recovery from urine alone has been demonstrated through the use of solar thermal evaporation from exposure to direct sunlight. A pilot-scale study evaporating 50 L of undiluted urine yielded 360 g of fertilizer (2% nitrogen and 2% phosphorus by weight), equaling approximately 0.2 g of nitrogen and 0.2 g of phosphorus per person per day. The urine-derived fertilizer led to biomass yields and nutrient uptakes comparable to those from commercial fertilizers (Antonini 2012).
Potential benefits of urine separation can be weighed alongside the added cost of separate urine purification. In the event that urine is separated for nutrient recovery, pathogens may desirably be inactivated by heat. This scenario may also consider fecal contaminants due to the potential for fecal cross-contamination during urine collection (WHO, 2006). Enteric viruses are killed rapidly at temperatures of 60° C. Entamoeba hystolytica cysts and hookworm eggs are killed after five minutes at 50° C. Schistosome eggs require one hour at 50° C. and Taenia eggs 10 minutes at 59° C. Bacteria such as Vibrio cholerae and E. coli are killed rapidly above 55 or 60° C. respectively and Salmonella requires 15 to 20 min at 60° C. (Feachem 1980, Gottas 1956). Therefore, in the event that urine is separated for nutrient recovery, a temperature of at least 65° C. can be used for pathogen inactivation. This temperature is practical to achieve outside of the reactor through a passive solar thermal process. Additionally, flowing source-separated urine through a parabolic reflector could take advantage of natural UVB rays from the sun for pathogen inactivation (Mbonimpa 2012). Exemplary systems include thermal and/or natural UV inactivation of pathogens.
Both the initial human waste and biochar produced can be tested for indicator organisms of known pathogens. The material can be diluted into suspension and inoculated with the appropriate culture for each type of bacteria, including mesophile, thermophile, the organic decomposition bacteria, coliform bacteria, fecal coliform, E. coli salmonella and enterococci. Additional testing can be conducted for regrowth of indicator organisms during storage of biochar and more advanced testing for thermotolerant spores and cysts. Reactor exhaust can be analyzed for major hydrocarbons, sulfur containing gases, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and higher heating values. This analysis can be done with a GC-MS. This may provide information regarding whether the gases generated in either method present a health risk to the user or if they can be effectively harnessed as an energy source.
Various factors that can improve the performance of the system include: the tracking performance, reaction time, and insulation. In accordance with exemplary embodiments, the system exhibits hygienic reliability in terms of disinfecting waste on a consistent manner under a given environmental condition without the need for daily adjustments. An exemplary system also provides safe thermal, pressure and gaseous conditions by monitoring these inside the user compartment of the system.
Individual components which may be optimized for performance and cost include the solar collectors, any necessary tracking system, the reaction chamber, and the biochar production process. Additionally the biochar may be evaluated for soil amendment capabilities as well as nutrient value.
In evaluating the cost of a waste treatment system, a life cycle approach may be taken that considers not just construction costs, but also costs related to the sustainable delivery of a sanitation service. The system may be maintained to ensure that the service level remains the same as originally intended. Thus “costs” refer to expenditures incurred by the household or community (in case of the public toilet/system) for construction, operation and maintenance, and rehabilitation. This analysis helps one understand cost drivers so as to enable more cost effective service delivery. The benefits, which include elimination of costs associated with emptying, transporting, treating and disposing of traditional latrine human waste material as well as the value added material can be balanced against the costs of the system.
Table 3 shows cost estimates for system components, annualized and reported as a cost per person per day (6% discount rate and 20 year life). The scenarios analyzed range from household systems (for 4 and 10 individuals) to shared community systems (50 individuals). An estimate of the cost of small-scale solar concentrator systems using fiber optics is in the range of $200-500/m2 with an average of $350/m2 used in the calculations. The size and cost associated with the solar concentrator system for each biochar production method are shown in Table 3. Other system costs include the solar reactor, toilet base structure and superstructure. The cost estimate for the reactor associated with each system size depends on the desired temperature of reaction and orientation/automation of the collection area below the toilet. Assuming a reactor design without costly automation and with the use of aluminum or stainless steel; a system that serves 4 people is estimated to cost $230 for aluminum or $545 for stainless steel. A system serving 50 people would require a larger reactor for pyrolysis and is estimated at $700 for aluminum or $1635 for stainless. The construction of the collection area and the platform on which to stand in the bathroom can be designed and built out of local materials, e.g., reinforced concrete and brick/mortar; estimated at $100. The superstructure can be largely up to the users, but could likely be safe and private for less than $50. Table 3 shows that the final cost per person per day for these toilet systems are in the range of $0.03-0.10, indicating that the system has a very feasible economic outlook.
The value of the products produced can also be factored into the economic picture. Biochar is incorporated at a conservative price of $57 per ton, based on biochar without any nutrient content (McCarl et al., 2008). Assuming 400 g of feces per person and a 50% mass yield during the pyrolysis process, a daily value for biochar was calculated. It was calculated that 0.17 m3 of methane is produced per person per day and this added value is incorporated into Table 4 at a cost of $80 per 1,000 m3 (IndexMundi, 2012). In the case of urine diversion and purification, the product has a high nutrient value and a current price of $506/ton ammonium nitrate (34% N) and $665/ton of a 45% super phosphate (USDA 2012). Table 4 shows the overall value of the products produced in one day from the system designs described herein.
The technology can serve individual families but additionally could be more economical in peri-urban communities. Depending on the value of the value added products, shared community toilets could generate a large amount of nutrient infused biochar as well as be a site for additional community services such as a kitchen, served by the flammable gases produced during the pyrolysis process. Additionally, maintenance could be paid for by biochar or nutrient sales to rural areas, carbon credits associated with biochar and toilet system user fees.
The alternatives for the system design desirably include ease of use and maintenance, safety, affordability, and cultural appropriateness in regards to sanitation practices. A squat or a pedestal/sitting toilet design can be used depending on the cultural preference of end users. For the dry pyrolysis application, a urine diversion variant toilet can be used. The toilet seat may have a slightly elevated position above the floor to minimize water or other cleaning liquid entering the receiver/reactor through the input holes. Foot operated hole seals may be provided to minimize odor and help keep liquid out. A latrine floor may be made of smooth, polished, and durable materials to minimize odor causing adsorption and facilitate cleaning (Rieck, Muench, 2011). Floor drains may be provided to avoid the possibility of reactor/receiver area flooding as some users may utilize the restroom as a bath/shower space for lack of other space. Wind driven ventilation may be used to keep odor to an acceptable level. If desired, however, wood ash, lime, sawdust, soil, etc. can be used to cover fresh excreta. The user may slide/guide the reactor/receiver to the location of the reactor lid and secure the lid in place. This can be done routinely, e.g., every evening after transferring the pyrolysis end product to storage for later sale/use. The use of guides to move the reactor/receivers reduces accidental spilling of raw excreta. For the safety of the user, a temperature measurement unit may be installed to ensure that the reactor contents are cool enough to open. Periodically the user may be expected to replace the o-ring seals that help maintain a pressure seal for the reactor.
Turning now to
The present invention has been described above with reference to a number of exemplary embodiments and examples. It should be appreciated that the particular embodiments shown and described herein are illustrative of the exemplary embodiments of the invention and its best mode, and are not intended to limit the scope of the invention. For example, although the invention has been described in connection with a system and method for treating human waste, the system and method may be used to treat other forms of animal waste. It will be recognized that changes and modifications may be made to the embodiments described herein without departing from the scope of the present invention. These and other changes or modifications are intended to be included within the scope of the present invention.REFERENCES
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1. A thermal treatment system, the system comprising:
- a solar concentrator having an area of concentrated solar power;
- one or more fiber optic cables, the one or more fiber optic cables having a first end proximate the area of concentrated solar power and a second end; and
- a solar reactor coupled to the second end of the one or more fiber optic cables, the reactor comprising: a container to receive material to be treated; and insulating material surrounding the container.
2. The thermal treatment system of claim 1, further comprising a urine diversion device.
3. The thermal treatment system of claim 1, wherein the reactor is a hydrothermal carbonization reactor.
4. The thermal treatment system of claim 1, wherein the reactor is a pyrolysis reactor.
5. The thermal treatment system of claim 1, further comprising a rotating mechanism to expose the reactor to the one or more fiber optic cables.
6. The thermal treatment system of claim 1, wherein the biomass comprises animal waste.
7. The thermal treatment system of claim 1, wherein the fiber optic cables are isolated form the reactor.
8. A method to treat biomass, the method comprising the steps of:
- providing a solar collector to obtain concentrated solar thermal energy;
- providing a reactor;
- providing biomass to the reactor;
- providing concentrated solar thermal energy to the reactor using one or more fiber optic cables; and
- treating the biomass with the concentrated solar thermal energy.
9. The method to treat biomass of claim 8, further comprising the step of rotating a carousel to expose the reactor to one or more fiber optic cables.
10. The method to treat biomass of claim 8, wherein using one or more fiber optic cables comprises using fiber optic cable having fused ends.
11. The method to treat biomass of claim 8, wherein the step of treating the biomass with the concentrated solar thermal energy comprises using hydrothermal carbonization.
12. The method to treat biomass of claim 8, wherein the step of providing biomass waste to the reactor comprises providing animal waste to the reactor.
13. The method to treat biomass of claim 8, wherein the step of treating the biomass with the concentrated solar thermal energy comprises using pyrolysis.
14. The method to treat biomass of claim 13, further comprising the step of condensing the water vapor.
15. The method to treat biomass of claim 13, further comprising the step of removing condensable tars within pyrolysis gas using a removable tar trap prior to further treatment or use of a gas.
16. The method to treat biomass of claim 13, further comprising the step of removing odor causing compounds from the pyrolysis gas using one or more of a biochar and activated carbon packed filter bed.
17. A method to treat animal waste, the method comprising the steps of:
- providing a waste treatment system comprising a solar collector and a reactor, wherein the reactor receives concentrated solar energy from the solar collector;
- exposing solid waste to the concentrated solar energy in the reactor to produce char; and
- exposing liquid waste to one or more of concentrated and passive solar energy to treat the liquid waste.
18. The method to treat animal waste of claim 17, wherein the step of providing a waste treatment system comprises providing a waste treatment system comprising a solar collector, a waste collection tank, and a conveyor, wherein the conveyor semi-continuously transports waste from a collection tank and receives concentrated solar energy from the solar collector.
19. The method to treat animal waste of claim 17, further comprising the step of moving insulating material relative to the reactor.
20. The method to treat animal waste of claim 17, further comprising the step of treating urine.
Filed: Mar 15, 2013
Publication Date: Dec 26, 2013
Applicant: The Regents of the University of Colorado, a body corporate (Denver, CO)
Inventors: Karl G. Linden (Boulder, CO), Alan W. Weimer (Niwot, CO), R. Scott Summers (Boulder, CO), Allan Lewandowski (Evergreen, CO)
Application Number: 13/837,824