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.

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