Thursday, June 3, 2010

How to build a Culhane/Solar CITIES HDPE Bio-Digestor


(Design by T.H. Culhane, photos courtesy of Brandon Shaw)History: T.H...

Nunc est cantandum!

 From this Harvard Med School and Beth Israel Medical Center study comes evidence that the "melodic-mnemonics" technique I've used all these years to improve science and environmental education is also useful for stroke victims and others.  "Nunc est cantandum" as the Kroks say: Now is the time to sing.

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Researchers presented these findings at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in San Diego.

Pachube Online Graphing of Data

Marcel Lenormand Hi T.H.
you mentioned something about dataloggers on your Alaskan test rigs...
Have you come across Pachube? They publish and graph your data online. Interesting for us in terms of sharing results.
Also, they're offering a $5000 award for environmental projects. I'm not sure of the details though.

Thomas Henry Culhane
Thomas Henry Culhane
Haven't seen those Marcel. I will have to check them out. We were looking at the Vernier kits that Blue Marble Energy uses when we visited them (I know Vernier Lab data loggers from my years as a high school science teacher). Have to see what Pachtube offers. Thanks for the tip.
March 3 at 10:23am

Real-life Superheroes: 10 People with Incredible Abilitie

I first heard about human echo-location when visiting the St. Louis Science Museum exhibit on the real science possibilities behind Marvel Comics heroics after presenting our Cairo work at the AIAA conference. This web site provides a good summary of this and other interesting abilities latent in our species.
With so many superhero movies around, such as Spiderman or Hulk, we are used to see people with special abilities in fiction. But people with amazing abilities actually do exist in real life; here's a list of 10 of the most amazing of these people!

Blue Marble Energy

  Hi guys -- watch this video Blue Marble has produced on using anaerobes to create substitutes for petrochemicals (particularly esters) and check out their site. Mike Rimoin, our Solar CITIES colleague who worked with us in Egypt and with whom we just built a bio...gas reactor last week, used to work for Blue Marble and introduced us to their CSO the other day. I hope we can get them some psychrophiles to experiment with and join them in promoting anaerobic ecologies to help shift our economy from fossil dependency to renewable interdependencies.

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Blue Marble Energy (BME) is a Seattle-based company that generates biochemical and bioenergy products from diverse waste biomass feedstocks.
Thomas Henry Culhane
Thomas Henry Culhane
I love their terminology, "utilizing hybridized bacterial consortia to produce specialty biochemicals and renewable biogas." The idea of "hybridized consortia" is even more interesting than saying "using an ecology of bacterial solutions" in the way it fits in with corporate terminology. And it speaks to the "bacterial consciousness oriented midi chlorians" in me :)
February 28 at 11:26pm

The Illustrated Road to Serfdom

Thomas Henry Culhane  Here is a fun cartoon synopsis of Hayek's "The Road to Serfdom" which we were talking about, from an old Look magazine that gives the basic outline of the argument I was trying to reiterate (about why "planning" was the most dangerous and heinous profession, an indictment of the field I'm in!:) ) The book, of course, is much deeper and more nuanced, and worth the read!

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Psychrophiles: From Biodiversity to Biotechnology

"Psychrophiles: From Biodiversity to Biotechnology" -- soon to be my favorite bedside reading companion -- as soon as I can afford the 100 dollar used price tag ($279 new -- talk about barriers to entry -- don't tell me "supply and demand" rules the extravagant prices of important technical books containing vital infor...mation that can help solve the biggest global problems from climate change to poverty to biodiversity loss -- in the end it is just ink on paper, overpriced methinks for the same reasons the writing is so inaccessible -- so few can access it! )

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BBC News - Human gut microbes hold 'second genome'

  "Basically, we are a walking bacterial colony" say the scientists behind this latest report. Interestingly that is precisely what I was telling Mr. Beard's 9th grade classes when I gave my two presentations on our research in Seattle last week. The plot thickens...
In fact, there are more genes in the flora in the intestinal system than the rest of our bodies. So many that they are being dubbed our "second genome".

Leading a bacterium to culture


This past weekend we were once again honored to have a radio broadcast conversation with host Boyd Matson on National Geographic Weekend, this time about our work exploring how to harness Alaska's psychrophilic bacteria to produce biofuels around the world in areas where it is to...
Thomas Henry Culhane
Thomas Henry Culhane
The actual title is "leading a bacteriUM to culture" but somehow this got network blog posted before the final edit. Me doesn't want people a think me weren't ejakated or nothin. BTW the title comes from the old saying (gleaned from my days working for the L.A. Zoo Horticulture Division) "You kin leada horticulture butcha can't maker think." via "You can lead a horse to water but you can't make her drink". Don't blame me for bad humor in bad taste; the bacteria made me do it, I swears...
March 4 at 4:35pm

HOWTO: Add videos to MxTube even if MxTube no longer works to download videos - iPod touch Fans

  Has learned how to use Open SSH (through Cyberduck or WinSCP using wifi) to take the videos we create on our biogas project as mp4s and put them onto a jailbroken Ipod Touch to share with villagers in Tanzania (with use of a 3M handheld projector) so that we can teach without the language barrier getting in the way. I' posted instructions at

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HOWTO: Add videos to MxTube even if MxTube no longer works to download videos Jailbroken iPod touch Games and Apps

Modification of urea–sodium acetate trihydrate mixture for solar.

  This proves there is more to pee than meets the eye (or the toilet bowl).
Investigations of sodium acetate trihydrate for solar latent heat storage, controlling the melting pointSolar Energy Materials, Volume 9, Issue 2, July-September 1983, Pages 177-181Abraham Ulman, Bruno ValentinAbstract

Homemade Acetate Heater Pad

Given that the methanogens primary feedstock is acetate, I'm seeing if I can culture them more rapidly by feeding them acetate directly. But where to get a constant source of acetate? Why vinegar and baking soda, of course. And while we're at it, we can make heater pads too (not to mention solar storage media!). I love instructables!
Learn in this video how to make sodium acetate (hot ice experiment)with household item,and how to make heater pad re-usa...

Houston, we have a problem

  We lost the Cryosat 1, which was to monitor changes in polar ice thickness, to a malfunction on the Russian launchpad in 2005, now we lose the CO2 hunter -- climate skeptics must be delighted that we'll now have to wait even longer to get the definitive data. Isn't it weird that we don't seem to have such failures for... trivial telecom satellite deployments. Gremlins?

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Officials said the fairing - the part of the rocket which covers the satellite on top of the launcher - did not separate properly.


  Unfortunately we can't afford the conference fees to attend this, even though it is nearby, but it is good to see that so much activity is going on here in this vital field. By the way, this website,, is great for all those of you who want to keep up with the state of the art.
BIOGAS UPGRADING TO BIOMETHANE - Conference in Germany, 23rd 24th March,The upgrading of biogas to biomethane for feed-in to the natural gas grid or for use as vehicle fuel is gaining in interest and importance worldwide. ...

Ammonia fueled cars

The NH3 Car from U Michigan is one of those exciting developments that need more coverage. This truck runs primarily on ammonia, using other fuels (ethanol, H2, gasoline, natural gas) for start up and idling. I'll be following this one!
NH3 Car

Worlds Most Usefull Tree Provides Low-Cost Water Purification

  As we prepare to head to Africa, it is worth reading up on all of the incredible resources the continent has to offer, like the mighty Moringa tree.
Washington DC (SPX) Mar 08, 2010 - A low-cost water purification technique published in Current Protocols in Microbiology could help drastically reduce the incidence of waterborne disease in the developing world.
March 15 at 1:27am · · · Share
Lara Morrison
Lara Morrison
we have two Moringa seedlings in pots
March 15 at 3:47am ·
Thomas Henry Culhane
Thomas Henry Culhane
Cool! They should be planted all over California's built environment (which resembles Australia and the Mediterranean far too much in my opinion); would go well with the African Natal Plums that are all over.
March 15 at 7:24pm ·

BBC News - Forensic role for hand bacteria

  "You are ALMOST as unique as your bacteria" it turns out! While we've all heard aphorisms like "the clothes make the man" and "you are what you eat" the reality is that what truly makes us unique is the particular congregation of bacteria that live on us -- in fact they turn out to be more predictive of who we are th...en our own genome, as indicated by the twin studies done to date. Hmmm... perhaps we really are mere "spaceships" for micro-organisms longing to leave the hypersea...

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Researchers in the US discovered that the "communities" of bacteria living on a person's skin are different for each individual.

Microbial fuel cells and Electrogenic bacteria

  Microbial fuel cells are old news (this article from 2004) but it is always worth revisiting the tech and seeing if it is mature enough for backyard implementation...
Science news, offbeat technologies, scientific hot topics, bizarre scientific research, cryptic experimental results and the liveliest science discussion board on the Internet.

 Electrogenic bacteria -- another "must investigate at the household level" phenomenon.
Forget Horsepower, Think Cow-Power

Extech EC500 pH Conductivity Meter Waterproof ExStik Extech EC500 EC 500 EC-500

  Just purchased an Extech EC500 pH/Conductivity/TDS/Salinity/Temp meter (148 Euro from to bring to Kenya and Tanzania and Rwanda for our trainings. Wish I was able to purchase from the U.S. as it would have been about 40 dollars cheaper and could stretch the budget farther; but living in Europe we DO have better health care so there are some advantages... :)

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Extech EC500 Waterproof ExStik II pH/Conductivity Meter

Green Satellite Fuel Designed To Make Space Safer

  Earlier I shared a link about the NH3 Car (Ammonia fueled) . Now the search for "greener" fuels (i.e. less toxic, not more colorful :) ) is leading to the possible replacement of hydrazine in spacecraft with ammonium dinitramide (ADN) mixed with water, methanol and
ammonia. This won't only make launches safer but CHE...APER, helping us get more payloads into space and faster.

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Paris, France (ESA) Mar 17, 2010 - On the day running up to launch when a spacecraft is fuelled, ground personnel look more like astronauts than engineers, putting on spacesuit-like protective gear.

We the people vs. the richest man on earth

Thomas Henry Culhane has just innovated a "microbial fuel rod" system for his "roof-top kitchen garbage to electricity and cooking fuel biogas" breeder reactor. The concept is based partly on the way a mini-nuclear reactor works, only much much much much much much safer. And it gets rid of the solid waste problem at the same time, while p...roducing fertilizer for the roof top gardern. Beat that Bill Gates!

See MoreMarch 26 at 12:49am

Bill Gates has announced that he will now back mini-nukes (in partnership with Toshiba) as his way to 'solve the energy crisis', tackle global warming and provide electricity to developing countries...

Biotechnology: Low temperature methanogenesis

This article that Katey passed on shows the potential for methanogenesis from grass. Perhaps soon every football and soccer and baseball field and every urban park and golf course could be contributing to our energy solution, again, if we can break the temperature barrier (heating systems consumer 20 to 40 % of the gross energy produced in the temperate zone).
EN-2009-3Low-temperature biogas production using perennial grass as feedstockDenise Cysneiros, Katarzyna Bialek, Changsoo Lee, Therese Mahony, Vincent O’Flaherty Department of Microbiology and Environmental ...

  Dr. Katey Walter Anthony, our partner in the National Geographic Blackstone Ranch Innovation Grant, sent this link along showing that others around the world (though far too few) are working on the same issues we are. Whereas "small-town nukes" may be able to compete directly with solar and wind energy, they can't com...pete with an energy solution that is simultaneously a waste-management solution and a water quality and conservation solution, so if we can break the temperature barrier then methanogenesis and electromethanogenesis should trump the mighty atom. Get involved -- we need your brains on this!

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Methanogenesis is feasible at low temperatures and occurs in natural anaerobic environments like lake sediments. In mesophilic methane production, which is the most commonly occuring process condition ...

Commercial low-temperature biogas systems bt Bioterre

  It is gratifying to know that low-temperature biogas systems are being commercialized right now at the farm scale (see link). Our goal is optimize them for small-scale community and household applications, particularly in urban and peri-urban areas and in villages. Won't you join us?
Thomas Henry Culhane
Thomas Henry Culhane
This should have been the link:
March 26 at 5:10pm · 
Thomas Henry Culhane
Thomas Henry Culhane
Bioterre's work in Quebec, like ours (only preceeding ours by over a decade) is in "psychrophilic anaerobic digestion" technology" in in semi-batch/batch reactors. We are working on continuous digestion instead of batch and at a much smaller scale. But what can be scaled up can be scaled down...
March 26 at 5:15pm

Beginners Guide to Biogas

  This is the University of Adelaide's "Beginners Guide to Biogas". It is a wealth of useful information, including how to use a few grams of sodium hydroxide (NaOH) to estimate the CH4/CO2 ratio of your home biogas brew. A great site.
Biogas can provide a clean, easily controlled source of renewable energy from organic waste materials for a small labour input, replacing firewoood or fossil fuels (which are becoming more expensive as supply falls behind demand). ...

BioFuels, Biogas & Others

  Here is a good site from the Philippines we can use for preparation for our collaboration there with German Pediatrician Sven Volkmuth and his NGO

Deepak Gadhia's incredible solar water heating systems

from Caroline Howe

In this photo:
Deepak Gadhia's incredible solar water heating systems, and TH, as always, in wonder!
March 28 at 4:08am · View album

Swahili Biogas Song


Thomas uploaded Swahili Biogas Song to YouTube
Frank Di Massa
Frank Di Massa
Can't argue with kids laughing, singing and enjoying themselves!
April 30 at 8:12pm ·

Thomas uploaded Swahili Biogas Song to YouTube
Charanjeet Singh
Charanjeet Singh
nice.. like the energy
April 29 at 7:48pm · 
Rebecca Espinosa
Rebecca Espinosa
Jeremy my son loves this!!! well so do I but it's cool to see one's kid love it too.
April 29 at 8:40pm · 
Ronnie Buder
Ronnie Buder
April 29 at 8:47pm · 
Byron DeLear
Byron DeLear
The spirit of Danny Kaye is in Tanzania greening the planet one village at a time! Beautiful T!
April 30 at 1:32am · 
Peter Foxon Miller
Peter Foxon Miller
This song is a GAS! Awesome and fun.
April 30 at 3:22pm · 
Thomas Henry Culhane
Thomas Henry Culhane
Gosh Byron, that is quite a compliment; as a kid I was a huge Danny Kaye fan! Flattering to know the influence may have rubbed off!
May 3 at 8:08pm