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CNET News Video: Carbon-negative energy source powers homes on walnut shells

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CNET News Video: Carbon-negative energy source powers homes on walnut shells

3:00 /

It's not exactly Mr. Fusion but it's getting close. All Power Labs in Berkeley, Calif., has built and sold hundreds of gasifiers around the world. The portable power source runs on organic material like corn cobs and coconut shells. But it's not just cleaner burning. Even the waste is good for the planet. All Power Lab's Tom Price shows us how it works.

All the organic material in the world like trees, and nuts, and plants, and so forth, extracts carbon from the sky and embed it in themselves. That's known as biomass. The process of gasification takes this biomass and then extracts the energy out of it. And the only thing left over is pure carbon or charcoal which can then be put back in the ground. This is the only form of carbon negative energy in the world. How it works is this: we take biomass like that and put it in the hopper. It's heated up in a low oxygen environment that breaks down the long chain hydrocarbons and releases a vapor that's full of hydrogen. That hydrogen goes directly into a regular car engine turn it on and it works. Anything that's dense and organic, we can extract energy out of to make -- to run an engine. So there's 4 main pieces. There's the hopper that holds the fuel, the reactor where it's burned or smoldered to get the energy, a filter to make sure it's clean, and then an engine. So you're basically looking at kind of a fuel refinery and then an engine side by side. One of these is strong enough to run about 3 or 4 households in the United States and you'd have to fill it ever 4 hours or so. Palm kernel shells from West Africa, stoned fruit like peach pits, corn cobs, wood chips like pine, peanut shells and wood pellets, they all work. And we have a lot of them. So after we're done turning these into energy, all we have left is this kind of charcoal so you can physically put this in the ground. You've done 2 things. One, you've taken carbon out of the sky and put it back underground where it belongs. And two, this is kinda like plant crack. Plants would grow up to 20 percent more if they have this as a soil supplement. This is our drill controller which allows us to control all the process of moving the fuel, temperature sensors, everything we need to know to microcontrol the reaction process inside the reactor so we know how much fuel we're making and what its content is. The ability to make [unk] energy anywhere you want, whenever you want for a dime is unprecedented. Our goal is to make them easier. We wanna get to the point, and we now we can get to the point, where you can take any organic thing, a tree trunk, a coconut, a burrito, anything, and put it in a device and out comes electricity. We know the steps to get there. These are some of the first steps.
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