Alternative fuels pertain to quite a large scope, since any material or substance (beyond the realm of conventionality) that can be used as fuel – falls in this broad category. Suffice it to say, the broad ambit does include some weird components that have been dabbled with to provide low-carbon solutions. So, without further ado, let us check out ten of such very odd alternative fuel sources that you might not have known of.
1) Human Fat –
There was this incident during which Beverly Hills doctor Craig Alan Bittner claimed to remove human fat from his patients (during liposuction procedures), and then converted them into bio-diesel that seemingly fueled his Ford SUV and also his girlfriend’s Lincoln Navigator. In terms of science, this is surely possible, since fats contains triglycerides – esters derived from glycerol and fatty acids. These can be extracted from the fat, and then transformed into diesel – with about a gallon of fat leading up to a gallon of fuel, with the removal of the fatty acids. The resultant diesel can also provide a similar mileage as its conventional counterpart.
Unfortunately, for Doctor Bittner, it is illegal in California to used human ‘waste’ for fuels, and as such he was under investigation by the state’s health department. However, by 2008, he probably fled to South America, thus escaping the clutches of US law.
2) Chocolate –
A collaborative effort from Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) and the Warwick Innovative Manufacturing Research Centro (both organization’s being part of the University of Warwick) resulted in a Formula 3 racing car that was entirely built from environmentally sustainable materials. And as a fuel, almost 30 percent of its bio-diesel was derived from chocolate wastes. According to Dr Kerry Kirwan, who was a part of the research team –
Components made from plants form the mainstay of the car’s make up, including a race specification steering wheel derived from carrots and other root vegetables, a flax fibre and soybean oil foam racing seat, a woven flax fibre bib, plant oil based lubricants and a biodiesel engine configured to run on fuel derived from waste chocolate and vegetable oil. It also incorporates a radiator coated in a ground-breaking emission destroying catalyst.
3) Ducks –
The preparation of duck liver (or foei gras) is a part of the gastronomical heritage of France, and as such over millions of ducks are raised over various farms across the country. However, one farm cooperative based in St. Aquilin (in France’s southwestern region) has taken the initiative to utilize the duck fat – concerned by high volumes of wastage of the component after the consumption period of the birds. This scope of utilization relates once again to the production of bio-diesel, with the fat being first heated to remove the excess water, and then being doused with both alcohol and hydrogen peroxide. Finally the composite is stirred, which ultimately leads to the formation of the bio-diesel above the layer of glycerol.
The process itself has a two-fold beneficial effect, with the first ambit pertaining to how it can avoid the overburdening reliance on conventional oils. Secondly, the high availability of duck fat in the region (southwestern France farmers alone raise over two million ducks in a year) makes it a feasible option that is intricately tied to the agricultural economy of the area. To that end, there were over a substantial 20,000 gallons of bio-diesel produced by the St. Aquilin cooperative in 2010.
4) Illegal Booze –
Back in 2006, smugglers decided to sneak around 185,000 gallons of alcohol inside Sweden, with the stash containing beer, wine and other kinds of liquor. Unfortunately for the smugglers, the Swedish custom service got wind of the illegal booze, and they decided to confiscate the substantial volume. But instead of just pouring the entire volume down the drain, the officials opted for the ‘green’ way and sent the confiscated booze to a specialized plant in Linkoping – where it was heated and converted into usable bio-gas.
According to Svensk Biogas AB, a company that deals with the process of making bio-gas from confiscated alcohol, Sweden boasted of more than a thousand large vehicles (like trucks and buses) that utilized bio-gas as a cheap fuel. To that end, in terms of chemical conversion, around a quart of alcohol can account for one-tenth of a gallon of bio-gas. This is complemented by the economic benefit of the whole process, since the source material is ‘free’ – courtesy of the smugglers.
5) Dirty Diapers –
It is very much possible to convert garbage into fuel (gas and oil) by a chemical heating process known as pyrolysis. In that regard, the process of pyrolysis entails the heating of the said material (or materials) in a sealed environment where oxygen doesn’t play its crucial role. This allows the breaking down of the molecules for the resultant byproducts that might have viable values for future activities – ranging from generating electricity, heat to fertilizer contents.
When it comes to diapers, their constituents are suitably tailored to the pyrolysis process because of their nature of consistency. So, an expected ‘pile’ of plastics, resins, fibers and human wastes (like excrement and urine) rather improves the efficiency of the procedure, which leads to a steady outcome of fuel products like gas, oil and char. And the good part of this fuel-making scope is – dirty diapers are not that hard to come by, especially with large volumes being generated from hospitals (and presumably households with babies).