Off Grid Power in Liberia 

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.