Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Bio Char Vermicomposting Water Flush Toilet System

Theory: Using bio char to assist in the drainage of water from a vermicomposting tank.
Reclaim the drained water and distill it with a solar trough distiller or rocket mass heater when solar is unavailable.

When the sun is available, fuel for the heater could be made via organic matter or local ashei juniper dried in a solar kiln. Human waste gets flushed along with biochar into a holding tank filled with worms. The excess moisture would theoretically flow out of the compost leaving it drained enough for worm colonization, even with multiple flushes (assuming biochar is flushed with the waste).

The biochar can be produced in a tank inside the chimney of a rocket mass heater. This heater can also play host to a plethora of other experiments including the pyrolysis of hydrocarbon waste, casting plastics, and recycling water so that it may effectively be used as a vehicle of disposition while minimizing waste, particularly in the water department. (because it doesn't rain here.)

We will experiment with different ratio of biochar to waste to find an optimal drainage level for worm colonization.

The vermicompost remaining at the bottom of the system can be augered out through a rocket mass heater so the mix is heated to at least 160 degrees in order to kill e.coli .
After that the soil will be tested as a seed starter medium and compared against other vermicompost mixes.

The biochar would in theory absorb nutrients from the waste and urine mix before the worms composted it, assuming the nutrients would not be destroyed by pasteurization, these would add to the effectiveness of the biochar and the growth of the seedlings.

When the time comes where the worms must be harvested for sustainability, these worms must be used in another waste processing system or pasteurized as well (which would kill the worms) to kill e.coli (because e.coli is a big deal.). Pasteurization could be via any method, however solar dehydration would yield dry fish food allowing us to automate feeding in some aquaponics systems.

Men's health states that the average human generates about one pound of waste per day (360 being the average poundage for a years worth of twos.)

Five pounds of waste (five people) could be run on a 10 pound worms system with room to expand in six months.

Since the liquid has to drain through vermicompost and biochar, liquid movements would be caught and filtered before returning to the distillation unit, meaning less blockage.

The toilet water would be condensed back into a toilet flush tank and used to flush more waste and biochar. The water does not leave the system. Urine input would roughly make up the evaporation loss from the process. This would lead to a clean waste processing that yields plants that can be grown out in the aquaponics system. No risk for e.coli. Turning waste into a useable product.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Since we are done designing the lab and just waiting to gather materials, we started thinking about what we were going to need first and what we could build using the materials we could easily access.

Water is number one in Texas. It can be hot, it can be humid, but if you don't have water, your day is going to suck hard. Ergo, we need a water system. We can't dig a well (no materials) and rains for catchment are few and far between. So at the moment we need to truck water out to the lab. This is hard work, 55 gallons of water weighs upwards of 400 pounds! Then what? You take a shower, cook and eat, then you have 25? Not cool.

We need a way to clean and filter the water getting used at the lab so we don't have to bring more in.

Greywater and blackwater are a living liquid nutrient solution. Bacteria, fungus, fungi in our case, all manner of little buggers that could get you sick, so care must be taken to make sure there are no living organisms in your filtered water. We could use UV sterilization, reverse osmosis, distillation, or organic filtering. Given that we don't have many donations of reverse osmosis or UV parts, distillation or organic filtering were the options we could choose. Since we have to truck in water, the evaporation and water usage from the plants will end up using more water, especially on days when few to no people are out at the lab.

So distillation. And we have to build the apparatus, we have access to 55 gallon drums, limestone, Texas “Cedar” (Ashei juniper), aluminum cans and glass bottles. A rocket mass heater is a wood fired heater that uses wood extremely efficiently. We can use this heater to heat and boil water, then condense the steam and capture the pure water afterward.

This also makes us think about what goes into our water and how we are impacting the earth. Which is nothing but a good thing. “Not my chair, not my problem” is what leads to bigger problems and more broken chairs...and nobody likes a broken chair.

And then there's THIS!

This is the Rocket Mass Heater we mentioned in an earlier post. We modified it to accept a sealed container directly above the burn chamber to act as the initial heat dump and work as our water distiller! Everything else is just a standard rocket mass heater.

We would like to do movie nights where we project classic movies onto the side of the lab. So we stretched the mass out into a long bench for people to sit on and watch the show!*
*eventually, for now it's just going to be water purification.

Here is a picture of the inside of the burn zone, the tank on top is the distillation tank, with a line out running into a heat battery (tbd, maybe a hot tub or an algae bio-reactor??) to condense the steam back into water.

The applicability for this setup goes beyond water distillation, we can do anything that requires us to heat something without oxygen, or hold heat, or create a heat differential. I can think of about a hundred things we can use it for. So that worked out.