Austin De Boer, Steven DeJong, and Aaron French
We designed and constructed a small-scale model for converting hay or silage bales into fuel for the fluidized bed gasifier that Dr. Ethan Brue maintains on campus. Gasification is a possible means of energy production and bales of bio-organic materials are a plentiful resource in farming regions. Dr. Brue's long-term goal is to convert round bales into an accessible and viable fuel for fluidized bed gasification.
We designed and constructed a small scale "proof-of-concept" model that cuts a core of material out of a square bale to test and validate this possible energy solution. Cutting a core from the bale (as opposed to shredding or unrolling the bale) takes advantage of the already dense state of the bale by eliminating extra processing steps, thus reducing the cost and power required for processing the bale. Our design utilized a steel pipe, driven by a hydraulic jack to cut a core from the bale, which could subsequently be fed into the gasifier. Tests showed that the concept has a high potential to meet the need of feeding the bale into a gasifier at an appropriate rate, however, getting the hay to fill back into the hole made by the cutting pipe in preparation for the next cut is a significant challenge that will need to be addressed in future iterations of the design.