I didn’t expect to see an ethanol production plant pitched as a consumer technology at DemoFall 2010. But after more than a day of social networking, online shopping, and cloud technologies I was happy to see a product that does something useful, is good for the environment, and doesn’t want to be my friend. Even if it was big, green, and kind of ugly.
The Microfueler, from E-Fuel Corp., is definitely not for everyone. But if you’re really commited to energy independence—or, like some of my neighbors, have a little home wine-making operation with a lot of high-sugar content organic waste, it may be for you. E-Fuel already sells a system that ferments organic waste and converts it into ethanol. Start out with waste with a heavy sugar content, if you have a home wine-making operation, say, and the process is particularly efficient. (I do know folks who fall into this category.) The system includes a $10,000 home auto fueling pump to extracts gas-tank-ready ethanol from a fermented tank, and a $6000 generator that can power your home from this fuel supply. At DemoFall 2010, held in Santa Clara, Calif., the company added a component to this system--what it calls a column reactor, which it says will speed the fermentation process to minutes instead of days; no word on the price yet on this final device, says CEO Thomas Quinn, who tells me how it all fits together, in the video above.
Tekla S. Perry is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Based in Palo Alto, Calif., she's been covering the people, companies, and technology that make Silicon Valley a special place for more than 40 years. An IEEE member, she holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Michigan State University.