For some time, researchers have known it is possible to run a gasoline engine by burning wood. This past fall, a PSU student actually did it.
In the late 1980s, the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency produced a 39-page report describing how to build a wood-burning gas generator. Such a generator would be vital during periods of fuel shortages or other similar emergencies.
“It’s an interesting read, let me tell you,” said Jared Patterson, a senior from Mulvane, Kan., in Pitt State’s automotive technology program.
More than just read the report, however, Patterson used FEMA’s instructions to build the generator as part of a course project.
“(Associate Professor) Scott Norman said that anyone who wanted to take this on and build the generator could get out of taking the alternative fuels final,” Patterson said. “I like a good challenge, so I accepted.”
Patterson spent a month in the fall gathering the necessary materials and two days building the generator, which works by producing and filtering wood gas that can be used in internal combustion engines.
“Once we got it right, we were able to run an engine for about 12 minutes,” he said. “We were pretty excited. That’s not bad for our first shot.”
Norman said he was impressed with Patterson’s work.
“I liked that he was willing to take this on, and I was proud of the work he put in and the end result,” he said. “He really did a great job on this.”
Patterson said he learned a valuable lesson during the process.
“I learned that it can be done,” he said. “This could be very useful if we ever lose power for a long period of time.”