In Washington, Robotic Technology is developing a working prototype of a military device that will gather biomass (such as wood, leaves and grass), shred, combust, and generate electricity from the steam for its electric motor and batteries.
Robotic projects that the Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot (EATR) will travel 100 miles per 68 pounds of vegetation — 17 percent more than a modern car generating 25 miles per gallon on E85 ethanol (with an ethanol conversion rate of 100 gallons per ton).
The project has received a phase II SBIR grant from DARPA, and has recently received its engine from Cyclone Power Technology of Florida. The EATR’s ultimate mission includes long range military reconnaissance without the need for manual or conventional re-fueling. The project has potential commercial applications outside military purposes, such as in border patrol, agriculture, forestry, natural disaster clean-up and recovery, and power generation in industrial or large-scale farming and logging settings.
At the heart of Cyclone’s current biomass-to-power system for the proof-of-concept EATR is the patent pending WHE, a six-cylinder Rankine cycle external heat engine capable of generating up to 18HP of mechanical power. An attached combustion chamber produces up to 600°F of steam to run the WHE at peak performance. An alternator then converts mechanical energy from the engine into as much as 10kW of usable electricity to power electronics or recharge batteries. A more powerful version of the WHE is expected to be used in future field prototypes of the EATR.