Making Moon shine (motor fuel) with your Listeroid?

Do a WEB Search on ‘co-Gen’ or ‘cogen’ and you’ll get the theme. I spend time thinking what a person can do with waste heat. It’s pretty obvious if you have a living space or green house space to keep warm, but if it’s plenty warm already, what do you do with this energy other than waste it like most people do already?

There are some processes that convert this heat into cooling through absorption, web searches using ‘waste heat’ and other related key words can fetch additional info.. Checking out how one of those ammonia refrigerators work can spark additional ideas.

Back in my 20s, I used to make Moonshine just because it was fun and illegal.  I had a few friends that used to drop by and check out the latest batch, sometimes I’d trade a little ‘motor fuel’, for some good home made beer. If you think about the process of making alcohol from grains or starch (like potatoes), I think it may be a natural co-gen project, and it may be closely related to other processes you might think of.

Consider the  Lauder Tun, this is an insulated container where the grains, potatoes, or other starchy foods are held at a temperature around 140-160 degrees F. The enzymes produced from sprouted, then roasted Barley is introduced into this ‘mash’ to break down the starches and convert them to simple sugars. The resulting mash is now ready for the fermentation process.

If we think of all this waste heat given off by our diesel via the coolant, and exhaust, it may be the perfect source of heat to keep the Lauder tun at the proper temp for the conversion period. If one considers that you could design the lauder tun with a simple thermostat to control the temperature via thermo siphon, this could be an easy and cost effective means of powering the lauder Tun.

Fermentation itself can be aided by a temperature increase, and by maintaining a constant temperature.  Here’s where you might have another thermal loop off the power plant with a simple thermostat for it’s independent regulation.

Once we’ve fermented our motor fuel, it’s time for the distillation process, here we try and maintain a temperature higher than the vapor point of Alcohol, and lower than the vapor point of the water in the mixture. Alcohol boils off at 140F, Water at 212F, so here we might find a coolant temp to be perfect for the distilling process. There are many possibilities here, you could set it up as a pot still or more like a reflux still.

As for the final stage , we could use a water pump off the flywheel, or we can borrow some power from the generator end to push water through a condenser/radiator loop to condense this alcohol into our collection vessel.

Making Motor fuel would be legal, and most likely far less fun. Considering the effective Octane rating of Alcohol, it should be quite feasible to run a stock compression ratio in a Listeroid and run alcohol through it. One should be able to fit a spark plug right in the middle of that plug often fitted to the CS head, a bump on the flywheel could run the points, or maybe you remove the cam cover and fit the breaker points and a cam lobe there?

Imagine showing up at an old time engine show with a moon shine burner! , you could have an extra fitting coming off the tank to fill shot glasses when the boss isn’t looken.

If the end of the world comes, you could be ready to power your mo-ped into town on home made motor fuel.

Making use of Waste Heat

I’m always amazed at how efficiently a propane or natural gas water heater is. I have a forty gallon unit at one off grid location, I use a 5 gallon propane tank to fuel it, and it’s pretty impressive how many showers one can take on this amount of fuel. I pump collected rain water and hauled in water via a solar powered pump, but we’ll soon have the Lister working the well.

I was talking to a plumber who told me he has installed several heating systems where tandem gas hot water heaters are used for domestic water heating and act as the boiler(s) for a hot water heating system as well.  this causes me to wonder about uses for a discarded unit? If you use one of these as a cooling tank, could you use a small blower to push the hot air up through the center and into your living space?

What would happen if you used the center of a gas water heater as a muffler for your diesel engine? Some might suggest it would get full of carbon and lose it’s transfer efficiency, but maybe it could be set up to clean out with a brush on occasion?

More conventional co-gen ideas can be found here.

Got a co-gen idea? write me…

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4 Responses to Co-Gen

  1. Richard Barber says:

    Hello George, I have a 205 litre oil drum as heatexchanger in my shop. The exhaust of my 12kW Yanmar generator is fed through it before passing through the outer wall. There is probably enough heat to make it worthwhile adding a 2nd oil drum. Since the generator has its own comparment the heat can be used or wasted. Shop is 40′ X 60′ steel quonset.

  2. Mel Ensor says:

    Hi George,

    Looking at internal combustion engines we see that 30% of fuel is converted to mechanical power, 70% is converted to heat!!! Surely this means that the internal combustion engine is a much better producer of heat than power!!

    Add the 3Kw from a 6/1 through an immersion heater into the cooling water plus heat from exhaust and bingo theoretical 10kw of heat.

    Am I alone in wondering why people don’t see this?

    Cheers, love the new site

    George (Mel) UK

    • George B. says:


      Thank you for you comment. Salesmen are some of the first to see this, they know if they can claim waste heat; they can advertise impressive efficiency numbers, and whether the heat can be utilized or not, it will impress the majority of Environmentalist and potential customers.

      For DIYers, the cost is quite low to plumb a heat recovery system, and one design I like is a 80 gallon or larger cooling tank nearest your work bench in the shop. The generator might be just outside that wall, or some distance away with a small 1/20th HP circ pump delivering the excess heat. A tank charged with 140F coolant heats your body directly. When the heat is not desirable, operate a valve, and cool to an outside tank. Discarded water heater tanks work well, you need only prove they are sound. For those who pay to purchase and install a heat recovery system, the real measured benifit is often seen by the one who sells the equipment and installs it. You always start by calculating the fuel you will burn per hour and the heat available for recovery minus losses and the expense of the install prorated over the life of the power plant.

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