A 10 Kilowatt, Rankine Cycle Agricultural Waste to Energy Conversion Module Utilizing Ultra Micro Turbo-Alternators

EPA Contract Number: EPD12016
Title: A 10 Kilowatt, Rankine Cycle Agricultural Waste to Energy Conversion Module Utilizing Ultra Micro Turbo-Alternators
Investigators: Frederick, Gary
Small Business: Fluidic microControls, Inc
EPA Contact: Manager, SBIR Program
Phase: I
Project Period: March 1, 2012 through August 31, 2012
Project Amount: $70,091
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase I (2012) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) , SBIR - Sustainabile Utilization of Biomass


Current anaerobic digester systems are designed for capturing energy from waste from large herds of farm animals. GHD, Inc., a leading manufacturer of anaerobic digesters, has stated that a minimum dairy herd size for economical implementation of a biogas system is 800 cows. These require turbine or diesel generator sets of 100 Kilowatt size and larger, a limiting factor in economically scaling down these systems. The need exists for a smaller waste-to-energy conversion approach for implementation at farms with herds less than 800 animals. The need also exists for a universal energy conversion system for other solid and liquid waste streams utilizing syngas from pyrolytic reactors, or in some cases, heat from directly combusting solid waste. These can be used for providing combined heat and power for rural homes or small farm plots typical of third world countries.

Fluidic microControls, Inc. (FmC) has been developing a variety of technologies for micro energy systems, including ultra micro turbines, air bearings, and micromachined heat exchangers. Most recently, FmC has combined these into a 5 Kilowatt Rankine cycle waste heat recovery system for an on-farm electricity-to-nitrogen-fertilizer manufacturing system, the development of which was initiated with partial funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The heart of this system is the novel FmC gas-bearing turbo-alternator, which may be cost-effectively utilized with a variety of off-the-shelf boiler, pump, heat exchanger, pyrolytic reactor, and digester technologies in a waste-to-energy conversion system sized for small farm biogas systems.

The gas bearing turbo-alternator consists of a supersonic impulse turbine riding on air bearings, a permanent magnet alternator, and compressors that provide fluid power to the gas bearings and pump waste combusting products to follow-on treatment or storage sites. The patent-pending, fluidically damped gas bearing system has been successfully demonstrated at more than 300,000 RPM and operates with much larger, contamination-tolerant flow passages and clearances than other air bearing types, while providing critical damping to the rotating mass system. Nozzles, bearings, turbines and heat exchanger channels are manufactured using proprietary micromachining and laminate assembly processes that have been developed to make compact, cost-effective energy recovery components.

The primary goal of this program is to apply this technology to provide an effective energy conversion module for small-farm manure digestion systems, with an ultimate goal of providing a universal energy recovery module that can cost-effectively recover energy from a variety of waste streams, regardless of size.

Supplemental Keywords:

anaerobic digester, farm, biogas, combustion, solid waste, animal waste, micro energy system, waste-to-energy conversion,waste heat recovery, small farm biogas system, SBIR;

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report
  • SBIR Phase II:

    A 10-Kilowatt, Rankine Cycle, Waste-to-Energy Conversion Module Utilizing Ultra Micro Turbo-Alternators