Denver Zoo using poo poo power to run old motorized rickshaw and more


Forget about solar, forget about natural gas, the latest brown, err, green  renewable energy solution to power your car is here — and it comes from your rear… sort of.

The Denver Zoo has harnessed the power of animal excrement and human trash to power its tuk tuk rickshaw, reports the Denver Post.

The Zoo’s tuk tuk, a three-wheeled motorized rickshaw, runs on a combination of human waste and animal feces. Gross, maybe, but clever nonetheless — and ridiculously efficient. It will be used in the zoo’s upcoming Toyota Elephant Passage exhibit in June. 

The uniquely powered rickshaw is actually a byproduct of the Denver Zoo’s attempt to cut energy costs and will not only power the 20-year old tuk tuk, but help offset about 20 percent of the zoo’s total energy consumption and save $150,000 a year in trash and compost removal.

So how does the poo-power work? Basically, animal waste and human-produced trash are used to make “gasified pellets”. The pellets are then thermally broken down and used to charge a number of devices requiring energy such as batteries, pumps, and machinery. The waste and excrement are put under very high levels of heat and subjected to an oxygen-free environment. Once completed, the pellets give off syngas, which is burned in a generator to produce electricity that can power a number of things, like the  electric motor found in the tuk tuk.

“Usually when people use the gasification process, they have loads and loads of wood chips, but in our case, it’s really unique because it uses animal poop and human trash,” zoo spokeswoman Tiffany Barnhart says.

According to the report, this is the zoo’s second prototype that utilizes animal poop. The first, interestingly, was a blender used to make margaritas for zoo events. We’re happy to report none of the “fuel source” made its way into the drinks.

Okay, so when will you be able to turn that stomach-churning Indian buffet into fuel for your wheels? We’re not exactly sure,  but the Denver Zoo does have a patent pending on their poo-powered fuel system, which will be completed by this fall. If it proves successful, the energy system could very well revolutionize the future of waste management.

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