GEK turns 100, and APL introduces the “TOTTI”

Here’s the latest news from All Power Labs and our ongoing work in gasification.  We’re happy to announce the sale of our 100th unit, and even happier to unveil our latest design innovation, the “Tower Of Total Thermal Integration”, (aka: the “Hot TOTTI”) and point you in the direction of some of our testing data of late.

GEK turns 100
Actually, make that 107. We’ve just sold the 107th GEK, a pretty incredible number considering we started just over a year ago trying to help give people tools for open source power hacking.  Here’s a map of the world showing they’ve ended up: And for those who are curious, #100 is heading to the USDA Coastal Plains Soil, Water, and Plants Research Center.  Very interesting folks down there, check ’em out here:

This brings to 12 the number of research facilities or universities which have ordered the GEK to pursue their research in gasification. The others include: Lamberton College (Ontario); University of Alaska, Fairbanks; Ashton University (UK), Maharashtra Institute of Technology (India); University of California, Merced; University of Minnesota, Morris; Louisiana State University; Mississippi State University; Morrissville State (New York); and the University of Rome (Italy).

We’re now working to build a platform specifically for research facilities, so results are sharable and comparable between sites, and published research is augmented through a common test bed.  Best of all, we’re keeping the equipment inexpensive, so those outside the University can work on top of the same test bed.  This commonality of test bed, and growing network of serious users, promises many good things to come for gasification and pyrolysis.

Our work was recently used as the basis for a project by the Denver Zoo, to power their new Asian Tropics exhibit, using elephant dung for fuel. You can see a video of that project, showing our GEK and auger, by clicking the link below: | Colorado's Online News Leader | Denver Zooturning poop into power_1249332173543

Introducing the TOTTI: the Tower Of Total Thermal Integration
As you likely know, there are a few general pathways for solving the known problems of gasification. One school of thought focuses on filtration–add enough of it, and you’ll eventually get cleaner gas. We’re focusing on another approach– fix the problem in the reactor itself, with improved hearth configurations and thermal recycling systems, and avoid having to build a long train of compensatory vessels.  Here’s our latest effort in this regard:


Larger photos here:

From Jim Mason:
“The waste heat in output syngas and IC engine exhaust has tremendous potential for augmenting the various “thermally challenged” processes in a gasifier.  By well recycling and reusing these “waste heats”, we can remove the majority, if not the totality, of all the “thermal drags” on the combustion zone in the gasifier.  The result is higher combustion and cracking temperatures for improved tar conversion, increased tolerance for high moisture fuels, and increased total gasifier efficiency.

The GEK Tower of Total Thermal Integration (TOTTI) demonstrates a powerful new method to achieve this full thermal integration of waste heats in a gasifier and IC engine system, and do so in a compact and easy-to-build form factor.  Full thermal integrations are common on large-scale gasification equipment What is new here is a method and apparatus to achieve the same at the small and mid scale.  The usual attempt at this solution is to throw the entire kitchen sink at the problem– building a long train of filters, exchangers and cooler components, all tied together with a mess of plumbing and condensate management.  And the result is always a complex and expensive system only a government bureaucrat could love (or afford).

ALL Power Labs now demonstrates the same can be achieved through an economical combination of counter-flow vessels, directly mounted to each other, without a large elaboration of redistribution plumbing or auxillary vessels.  All waste heat is reused and returned to appropriate temp processes. Cool things are made hot and hot things are made cool, in sync and in order– thus there is no need for the usual radiator/cooler/condenser at the end to hide your “thermal sins”.

The GEK Tower of Total Thermal Integration is the culmination of all our air pre-heating, heated auger and PyroCoil work of late.  It is our best solution, and likely final answer, for establishing the correct total system thermal relationships, while also attending to the rest of the 3-D thermal-chemical-mechanical-gravimetric puzzle that is gasifier design.”

More design data and images available here:

In Lab Testing Results:
Our own Bear Kaufman and chemist-in-residence Jay Hasty have been doing some very impressive testing on GEKs using various fuels. Here’s an image from one just this week, you really should stop by here and check them all out.  Their goal: figure out what fuel runs best at what configuration, then share that with everyone else. Details here:


We also wanted to let you know about a new video series we’re starting, called Channel GEK.  Basically it will be short You Tube videos exploring how the GEK works, various gasifier designs and applications, how to assemble and run a GEK, common problems, that sort of thing.  If you have something you’d like to see us cover, please do write The purpose of these videos is to explore, critique, debunk, and demystify the biomass thermal conversion arts, so do let us know what you’re interested in learning about, and we’ll do our best to get it online.

That’s it for this week, thanks for your continued interest and support.

-All Power Labs

Maker Faire 2009

hopper_auger_reactor The ALL Power Labs crew is decompressing from talking enthusiastically for two days straight about small-scale-DIY-open-source-energy.  We took our GEK v3.o with new Auger and GCU to Maker Faire 2009.  For added flaire we made a special Art Deco Hopper for the new auger, check it out.

With all of the added improvements GEK v3.0 made incredibly clean gas all weekend long.  In an average day at ALL Power Labs we spend a lot of time playing and tinkering with Biomass gasification and the one thing missing from this weekend was the liqiud smoke smell.  The gas was so clean we had little to no “black goo”.  The clean gas did not do much to support the “cult of the black goo”.  With such clean gas coming out of the v3.0 the cult of the black goo might now be a misnomer, maybe it should be…cult of biomass…or cult of syngas…or cult of low tar….none of these quite have the same ring.  But maybe I am looking at it the wrong way, cults often praise something that is invisible or unknowable, maybe that is what we are looking at here with v3.0 the black goo will soon just be a figment of our imaginations.

Along with the clean gas we also tested the new Auger which worked flawlessly all weekend and the GCU gave us noteworthy data that we are trolling through as I write this.  Look for an update on the Maker Faire GCU run our wiki in the next week.

If you saw us at Maker Faire it was great to meet you.

Jess and The ALL Power Labs Team
gek [at] allpowerlabs [dot] org

GEK: The new Altair 8800?

ALL Power Labs recently had a visitor from Germany who got the point of why a “Personal Energy Device” might helpfully be made to look like a robot rocketship. His name is Joerg Pfeiffer, and was travelling across the US for Spiegel Online doing stories about energy and the economy. As he is German, and in the US, he of course rented a giant RV and spent most of his time in the desert doing stories about Americans doing weird things. At the end of his journey, he did a story about us.

Joerg’s video does the best job to date of explaining the larger context of the GEK. He was less interested in the tech and more interested in the social experiment as a parallel to the early desktop PC kits, the hacker culture that arose around them, and the importance of Bay Area culture to the whole thing. This is of course the larger context and agenda of the GEK and its creators at ALL Power Labs.

Not to ruin the suspense, but the point of the GEK is to make an Altair 8800 of energy. A personal scale power device that opens the door to a previously unaccessible tech, while recasting it as an opportunity for creative play. The promise that motivates the play is a future of energy as a distributed network of producers and improvers, not simply passive consumers more efficiently receiving the central broadcast. The method towards this an open tool that empowers others to create and play — not a sealed consumer appliance that encourages passive consumption.

Many individuals with good tools in their hands is always more powerful than one center with one big product or service. Such also tends to bring many unexpected rewards ancillary to the original “problem”. Energy may in fact not be a zero sum problem. Computing turned out to be about things other than raw computation. Food also turned out to be about things quite other than raw energy and nutrients. Might energy also have similar non-zero sum creative ancillaries?

The gasifier has the best potential in alt energy to be this tool and creative opportunity.

It was nice to see someone from the media world understand the larger point. But why did it require someone all the way from Germany to get it?


GEK with Spiegel Online
GEK with Spiegel Online

Personal Energy Robot: GEK v3.0

                               Here in Berkeley, at ALL Power Labs, in our Oasis of small scale gasification, the team has had our noses to the gridstone manufacturing and testing GEK version 3.0.

The new version’s highlights are: A new injector venturi system that replaces our fan/blower system and a new one-nozzle air inlet collar.

There are many other updates, like a new cyclone design which allows for easier clean out. But the best upgrade of all; our new Rocket Legs!

And if version 3.0 weren’t enough to get you excited, we have also been developing an auger drying/preheating system, which can be used with any GEK version and is available now, just take a look at our purchase page for details, or as always, contact us, we’d love to answer your questions: gek [at] allpowerlabs [dot] org.

More Great v3.0 images coming soon.

The GEK crew


1. New Ejector/Venturi based gas pumping, mixture and flare.
– No more axial blower or long flex tube to flare
– Flare hard mounts on unit in one of the three points described below
– Variable Air/Syngas mixing for tunable mixture to the flare or attached engine.

2. Three modes of gas routing for start up and/or continued running:
– Full passage through reactor and filtering system
– Early take off and burn on the side of the gas cowling. This prevents potential start up tar fouling the heat exchange tubes, cyclone and filter
– Reversed flow updraft mode via lighting at grate and flaring out the top of the reactor. This mode can also be used to generate char from raw biomass for your first run, preventing the need to prefill with good char. It can also be used to make char for other purposes (i.e. biochar)

3. Automated lighting and startup using electric heating element mounted internally in the char bed.

4. Electric motor driven stirring system to prevent fuel bridging

5. Air manifold neck with single point air intake

Single inlet makes capping on shut down easier. Also enables air intake gas flow measurement or water/steam injection.

6. Downsized Nozzles for default reactor configuration

7. Redesigned filtering system
– Two cyclone size options to better match use needs
– Cyclone completely disassembles for cleaning and easy modification- Larger packed bed filter
– Provisions to run cylone and filter as a recirculating water shower over char system.

8. Removable base on gas cowling.
– There is now a 12″ diameter flange ring on the bottom of the gas cowling that is the same bolt pattern as the reactor lid. This allows reuse of the auger-to-reactor junction lid as an auger based ash removal system under the reactor. The open bottom also supports various biochar reconfigurations that are coming soon.

9. Pyrex looking glass and fuel fill fuel cap.
– You can now see down inside reactor while running. Easy flip hold down bar for fast open and close.

10. Wide stance rocket styled legs.
– Because a “Personal Energy Robot” should look like a rocketship, of course.


1. Ceramic rope and rubber flange gasketing

2. Kaowool reactor insulation

3. Taller ash bin.
– Increased the space between reactor bottom and support grate, which leaves more inert char under reduction bell to counter overpulls.

4. Circumference fence around grate.
– Prevents char loss off edge of grate.

5. Smaller ash grate holes.
– The 3/16″ holes on the v2.x pass more char than ideal. Now using 1/8″ holes.