A Miniature Gas Plant (Jan, 1932)

A Miniature Gas Plant

IF YOU happen to live outside the city and do not have access to local gas mains, you can nevertheless enjoy the use of gas-operated equipment by constructing the miniature gas plant pictured here. The amount of gas constantly “on tap” will depend on the size storage chamber built. Coal, corn cobs, or similar fuel is used as a source of the gas.

The drawing explains the elements of the gas plant clearly. A tin can of gallon size with a tight-fitting cover is used lor the retort. As shown in one of the detail drawings, this retort is connected by means of a rubber hose to a water filter which removes any tar from the gas. This filter is simple, consisting of a jar three-quarters filled with water, through which the gas is forced, to escape through a second tube in the top into a purifier.

The purifier is made of a tin can in which a wire screen has been mounted on wire legs a couple of inches above its bottom. A mixture of iron sulphate and lime is then poured onto the screen for a depth of an inch or more, and an outlet connection soldered into the top of the can, with a similar joint at the bottom to receive the gas from the filter.

Next comes the construction of the storage chamber. This is made of two tin cans with their tops cut off, one can sliding inside the other, much like the large gas storage chambers used to keep gas under pressure in cities. Water is used as a seal to prevent imprisoned gases from escaping. The sliding top of the chamber is provided with a counterbalancing weight working over a series of pulleys on a wooden framework. This weight must weigh slightly less than the section of the can which it moves, in order that the gas, when it enters the chamber from the purifier, will be able to push the top section up by its own expansive force. The gas is thus kept under a slight pressure which will force it through the take-off tube. Fuel from which the gas is produced is heated by an alcohol or canned heat burner. Experiment will show how much fuel is necessary.

5 comments
  1. buddy says: January 22, 20083:39 am

    Cool. I’d add a check valve between the tar filter and retort to prevent backflow in case the fire went out, and maybe introduce trace mercaptan just after the purifier so any gas leaks are detectable. The storage chamber needs some way to prevent overflow.

  2. jayessell says: January 22, 20086:13 pm

    I wonder why the fuel chamber is heated by an alcohol burner.

    I can see it on the first day of operation, but after that, it should be heated by a portion of the gas produced previously.

    For electricity, use the gas in an internal combustion engine-generator.

  3. Spartandude says: July 21, 200811:02 am

    The reason for the continue use of the alcohol burner in this instance was the ease of alcohol/burner cans purchase. This article presupposed that you needed the gas for some purpose and you had access to the burner fuel, hence the use of the gas to pyrolize the carbonaceous fuel source would reduce the total output of the gas per pound of fuel (coal/corn cob) input. It would work though (reference DIY charcoal production). This was also used as a means of providing fuel for farming/transportation during WWII in Europe with the unavailability of petrol. – peace.

  4. Trumpy says: September 29, 20087:44 pm

    This looks alot like a gasifier to me. I agree with spartandude on the WWII use,I would also make use of check valves to prevent any backflow. If you were to get the systen started on an external source you should be able to maintaine a flame with the produced gasses once you have the proper fuel conversion rates to consumption of conversion flame need to produce surplus gas. A steady supply of fuel to be coverted should be add to the formula. If one was to make a large system to power a home ,stationary generator or power unit ,ect. I think I have talked myself into experimenting with this……

  5. JMyint says: September 29, 200811:19 pm

    What if instead of an alcohol burner you used a large frenzel lens and sunlight to heat the retort. I have melted lead and boiled water using frenzel lenses I am pretty sure that on a small scale this would be workable.

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