Belated Appropriate Technology Roundup #23 [1/24/08]

AIDG’s somewhat weekly roundup of appropriate technology stories. This week: chocolate biodiesel, biogas in Uganda, heat from the streets, and more.

1. From Wonka To Timbuktu – Running on Chocolate Biodiesel from The Practical Environmentalist

Chocolate Biodiesel for Mali

While this may sound like something out of a Homer Simpson fantasy sequence a group in the UK just made a journey from the UK to Timbuktu in a truck powered entirely by biodiesel made from chocolate; or rather the waste chocolate from a manufacturer.

2. Nokia’s success tied to emerging markets from CNET

What separates the mobile handset winners from the losers? The answer seems to be success in developing markets like China, India, the Middle East, and Africa.

Some interesting background info also from CNET [Emerging markets fuel cell phone growth]

Once viewed as expensive and unprofitable, developing regions such as Africa, China and India are now being thought of as the cash cows of the mobile phone industry.

As penetration rates in many developed regions such as Europe approach 90 percent or more, mobile operators and handset makers are looking to new markets where people may have never even picked up a regular telephone, let alone a mobile phone, according to a panel discussion Wednesday at the 3GSM World Congress.

3. Human Poop and Urine Provide Cheap Biogas Source in Uganda from Treehugger

In developing countries – where food is scarce and reliable energy supplies are even scarcer – necessity often becomes the mother of invention; so it is in Uganda, where farmers have resorted to using human urine and excreta – mixed in with banana peels, algae, water hyacinth and poultry droppings – as an inexpensive source of biogas.
In an effort to stave off the growing threat of deforestation in Uganda, HIU is working with several partners to build biogas plants; the inflammable [sic] gas is typically produced by bacteria in an air tight container called a digester. Biogas made from excreta contains 60 – 90% methane – enough for it to burn without further purification. There are currently three available plant models: floating, polythene tubular system and Chinese fixed dome – the latter of which is most commonly used by HIU’s beneficiaries.

4. Multimachine — truck-parts-based machine shop for Africa from Boing Boing

Multimachine from Truck Parts

Mike sez, “The multimachine is a milling machine, drill press, and lathe all in one machine that is made from old truck engines and other scrap parts. The very making of it imparts the skills needed to use it. It’s of the ‘teach a man to fish’ school rather than the ‘here, have a fish’ school. Some hand tools are required to build it. I’d love to see a group handing out the tools needed to build one and the manual all over Africa.

5. “Quicksilver” Retro-Future Scooter from appliances and scrap metal from Instructables via MAKE

Retro Future Bike

Ever since I was a kid I have always loved old scooters. However I have never really wanted the responsibility of maintaining a “vintage” machine. I always thought to myself, “why can’t we have the convenience and reliability of modern engineering like a Honda with the class and styling of an old Lambretta?”
Recently it occurred to me that as an adult, I actually have the skills and facilities to address this important issue that has nagged me all these years.

I am a metal sculptor, and have absolutely no experience with scooters at all. What follows in this instructable is my experience of stripping down a mid 1980’s Honda elite 125cc scooter, and totally redesigning it with aluminum scrap metal.

6. Heat from the street from the Economist

Energy: A clever new system uses asphalted roads, rather than solar panels, to collect solar energy in order to heat an office building

A bit more background from Jetson Green [Dutch Building Powered by Energy from Asphalt]

Asphalt Energy

7. Harvesting Rainwater by Not Letting It Go to Waste from NPR [Morning Edition]

Catch rain where rain falls. —East Indian proverb

Instead of letting rainwater flow off their roofs and yards, more people are looking at ways to capture and reuse it. In drought-prone areas, wastewater from sinks and washing machines can also be rerouted for landscaping.

8. Learning about Agriculture…from Las Vegas? from Ecogeek

The infamous buffets of Sin City may soon be able to advertise their food as wholesomely local. A 30-story farm is in the works for Las Vegas – an agricultural skyscraper designed to include over 100 different crops, from miniature banana trees to strawberries.

9. EcoMotors: Khosla Invests in Efficient Diesel Engine from Earth2Tech

Khosla Ventures announced it has invested in EcoMotors, a startup building more efficient engines, in particular a diesel engine that can do 100 mpg by 2011.

Unlike Khosla’s other biofuel investments, which total more than a dozen, backing EcoMotors is a play on making traditional vehicles more energy efficient. While the ultimate aim is getting drivers to kick their oil addiction altogether, there’s a lot of room for innovation in our traditional engines. Particularly with the Energy Bill’s new increases in the corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standard, which raises the average mileage of the auto fleet to 35 mpg by 2020.

10. HOW TO – Make Printed circuit boards – An illustrated guide (and round up) from MAKE

Printed Circuit Boards