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Biofuels Denver Zoo Turns Poo Into Fuel

Published on March 29th, 2012 | by Charis Michelsen


Denver Zoo Creatively Fuels Tuk-Tuk With Animal Waste

March 29th, 2012 by  

Denver Zoo Turns Poo Into Fuel

The image of the garbage-burning DeLorean from Back to the Future II is iconic for the 80s, but despite efforts, as of yet, no one has managed to make a car actually run on trash. The Denver Zoo is coming closer, though, with a new-found power source that is a little bit surprising — the zoo’s engineers have found a way to run a tuk-tuk on animal poo.

Having many animals and many visitors, the Denver Zoo also has to deal with disposing of a lot of organic waste; thousands and thousands of pounds a year. Its first foray into poo as fuel was with a margarita machine, which presumably made perfectly drinkable margaritas. Then the folks at the zoo really got creative.

Tuk-Tuks For The Win

A tuk-tuk is a sort of motorized cart, and if you do not find it as awesome as I do, I shall quietly weep for you. It’s a cute little fuel-efficient way to get around, with three wheels for extra fun. Of course, despite using as little fuel as they do, tuk-tuks still need something to get around. One fuel-efficient three-wheeler plus a desire on the part of the Denver Zoo engineers to prove that they weren’t completely insane equals a very unique little vehicle.

The zoo’s power source is certainly one way around expensive electric battery packs; as reported by the Denver Post, one engineer was quite insistent that their research makes perfect sense:

“We want to show people that we’re not crazy for wanting to take elephant poop and turn it into energy.”

Well, I think they’re quite sane and even reasonable. The poo gets turned into pellets. When heated, the pellets produce syngas. The gas drives a generator, and the generator powers the tuk-tuk’s battery. If that sounds complicated, don’t worry; the take-away is that the poo-powered tuk-tuk is clean, quiet, and odor-free.

Potentially, a use for larger vehicles in the future? Given the increasing population of the Earth and the finite amount of both fossil fuels, and also room to store waste, I definitely think so — but what about you? Let us know what you think in the comments below!

Source: Grist
Image: Wikimedia Commons

About the Author

spent 7 years living in Germany and Japan, studying both languages extensively, doing translation and education with companies like Bosch, Nissan, Fuji Heavy, and others. Charis has a Bachelor of Science degree in biology and currently lives in Chicago, Illinois. She also believes that Janeway was the best Star Trek Captain.

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  • With all that dung on their hands, at least they have found a productive way to it.

  • Jacob Kaul

    Wasn’t Bill Gates asking for such solution in Africa ?
    I think there is a nice prize for such solution.

  • Colourmekodak

    I’ve always been interested in methane harvesting, although that’s not what this is, still great to see someone is not afraid to deal with poo and turn into something useful.

    I would love to see a story about methane harvesting, I know they do it in india and other third world countries…

  • Phil Tallant

    I really enjoyed seeing your story. I was thrilled to hear that you loved Tuk Tuks the way I do. In fact, that’s why we have introduced Earth-friendly, All-Electric Tuk Tuks to America. In fact, all nine of our models are manufactured here in America by Americans for Americans. We are “street legal” in all 50 states and are being sold coast to coast…and beyond. I mean…nothing against rhino dung, but we run CLEAN on $1 of electricity for all the neighborhood transportation you desire in a given day. We are the only source for DOT approved street legal Tuk Tuks in the U.S. and we can’t wait to sell to individual or businesses as well as work with entrepreneurs in providing chauffeured transportation in their local neighborhoods. For a practical GREEN TUK TUK, check us out at TukTukTransport.com . Phil Tallant – President

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