Archive for the ‘GEK’ Category

New GEK building videos, Workshops in Europe, 100kw Powertainer progress

Welcome back after a quiet late summer sans Geknews posts.  Sadly, quiet on this end didn’t relate to the long planned trip down Baja.  Rather, we’ve been face down in the details of scaling our 10kw and 20kw Power Pallet production, as well as sprinting towards the finish of our first 100kw shipping container based system.

This of course is not a problem, and we thank all of you for making this adventure more interesting with each passing month. The challenge now is just keeping up with the growth in interest and all of your notes.  We’re now 15 people full time at APL, and it still is not enough.

Here below is some new news from the shop and beyond in GEK land.

New GEK v4.2 Fabrication Instructions  (in process, feedback needed)

If you’ve looked, you know-  the “current” GEK DIY fabrication instructions are a bit of a mess. They’ve been in terrible need of a version update, and they’re not very easy to follow anyway.  This summer the locals undertook on a big project to redo the instructions from scratch, and do so over the most current GEK sheetmetal set- the v4.2.  The first draft of these are now assembled, and we’d love to get some feedback on them before final polishing.  Thank you Ariel, Ike, Abram, Nick and Jess for putting these on the road to fabulous!

The new instructions are offered in two forms- a printable text / graphic document, and YouTube posted videos.   The print instructions and video documentation parallel each other, so you can watch the easy summary in the video, or dive into the details in the printed text and graphics.

Both start with an inventory of “What’s in your GEK Barrels” (which is actually rather useful just to see what’s in the kits) and then continue with vessel by vessel build instructions.  We think the vessel by vessel build organization will be useful, as many people end up just wanting to build one part or another, then set out on their own scheme on other fronts.

Here’s a sample of the text and graphic instructions for building the cyclone.  Download the .pdf file here:


gek gasifier cyclone


The related videos of cyclone building is on YouTube here:

GEK v4.2 – Level III – Fabrication: CYCLONE

The rest of the videos are available on the ALL Power Labs YouTube channel at or via the direct links below.

General links to the v4.2 CAD files, as well as the rest of the instructions as we post them, can be found here:

Tell us what you think.  These video and text instructions are still very much in process. Suggestions for how to make them more useful for all builders will be gladly received.  We’ve started a thread in the forum for comments here:

Workshops in Europe this fall


Duisburg, Germany

Every 1st and 3rd Thursday
Holger and Kersten of NRG-Consultants are holding GEK Power Pallet workshop/demos in Duisburg, Germany every first and third Thursday of the month.  These are regular events for Europeans to see the GEK Power Pallet run and try out specific fuels.

The workshops are one day in length, and cater to business owners and project developers who want to start working with small scale biomass power generators.  The gatherings are small (under 8 people), and cost 250Euro per person.

Holger is our main partner to date in Europe.  He has done wonderful work learning the GEK Power Pallet machine, and planning for CHP elaborations and European regulatory approvals of it.  If you explore Holger’s site you’ll see he has deep experience in CHP systems, and has toured all the options in small scale biomass powered machinery.  Holger seems to like the APL machine, and is currently investing lots of his time laying the ground work for its future in Europe.

Here’s the contact info for Holger and the German workshops.

Dipl.-Ing. Holger RoswandowiczTel.1  ++ 07000 1800 939
Tel.2  ++ 49 5223 180 2681
Mobil  ++ 49 171 1988 926
Twitter: nrgconsultant


Ghent, Belgium 

End October – Beginning November
Details are not yet fully clear, but we’re close to a plan for the long anticipated workshop in Belgium with Green Power Solutions and the University of Ghent.  This will be a multi-day workshop, with multiple projects and presentations.

There will be a turbo charged version of the 20kw Power Pallet on hand.  Rumors suggest we might even have a grid tie together by then to light up Ghent, but no promises yet.   Maybe we can get some of the European wood gas vehicle owners to show up too?  Belgium is not terribly far from many of the usual European suspects, so hopefully you will consider joining us.

More details will be forthcoming on this workshop shortly.  In the interim, you can write “gek” or Tom Vandeputte <t.vandeputte> with your interest.

100kw Powertainer progress

This summer we’ve also been working on a upscale of the GEK TOTTI and Power Pallet architecture for a 100kw gasifier-genset integrated into a 20 foot shipping container.   This is for a project in collaboration with the University of Minnesota Morris, Cummins Power Generation, and the Diesel Research Lab at the  University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, under the NETL program of the US Dept of Energy.  The unit will be sited at UMM in the fall of 2011 and run on corn cobs.

Pictures of the project are here in the wiki:

This is not yet a commercial product, but we intend for it to be by next summer.  The goal is a similar type of “drop it off the truck and go” fully integrated and automated system like we’ve built with the Power Pallet, just now around the shipping container standard.

Watch the wiki and forum for the first fire up later this month.


That’s it for now.  Hope you find it interesting.  You can follow the ongoing details via the GEK forum at

Yes, the forum is up and working once again.  We’re in the process of rebuilding it for much greater usability and relevance.  You’ll see many changes over the next month or two.  Right now it is still a bit rough, but at least the innards are now switched and we have the foundation on which to build a much better community collaboration space.

Thank you again,


FREE! Gasifier Workshop Weekend: Oct 23-25

Gasification PowerExchange Workshop #6:
GEK Building and 10kw Genset Configuration

Gasification Lecture and Demo: Friday, October 23, 7:30-9:30PM
Building and Testing: Saturday and Sundday, October 24-25, 11am – 7pm
Location: ALL Power Labs, 1010 Murray Street. Berkeley, CA
Contact: jim ^at^
Cost: FREE
More Info:

ALL Power Labs is starting a quarterly series of free gasifier workshop weekends to help bring more people to successful operation of small scale gasifiers. These workshops are open to GEK user/owners, as well as anyone with any other type of gasifier- or just a budding interest in the whole thing.  If you have a GEK and want personal instruction in how to run it, or you want to build a GEK with oversight from the mothership, this workshop will be a great opportunity to do either.

The workshop begins with an evening talk and discussion on the science of gasification and a survey of its design and production history. Both beginning and expert reactor assemblies will be presented, with pointers to further reading and current issues and opportunities in the field. Everyone will get a packet with lots of explanatory graphics and core data charts relating to gasification. As you know, we’ve generated a few of these . . .

The main project for our October workshop will be converting a Honda V twin 10kw genset for wood gas operation. This will be a belted unit for lower rpm running, with automated mixing and speed control. This is the genset scenario most of us have agreed on of late as the best option for small scale wood gas systems, and the one which we will soon be making available in conjunction with the basic GEK.

The genset will be somewhat on this scenario:

People can also use the weekend to colonize our shop tools and build their own GEK, or any other biomass thermal conversion device of interest. If you get a Level III GEK kit can weld it together over the weekend. You will get close to done, but not likely all the way (unless you are good). If you get a Level IV kit, you can assemble and run it on site, and learn the ropes before taking it home.

If you bring done gasifier, we can put the probes to it and learn something about what it does, or what your specific fuel produces. We’ll also be demoing the full testing rig that is producing the GEK datalogged runs.  You’ll even be able to consider the meaning of the vials/viles of goo up close and personal!  The picture below is from the “Multi-fuel Run Comparison” Bear recently completely, which compares run performance between walnut shells, wood chips and wood pellets.  See here for the details:

We have limited space for this workshop, so if you want to join us, please RSVP to jim (the at sign)  If you want to fly in from non-local places, know that we do have flat floors and soft couches for camping on site if needed.

I hope to see many of you soon in the belly of the nanny state beast (aka: Berkeley, CA).


How Gasification Works: The Basics Explained

I’m trying to figure out how to better explain the basics of gasification. This is hard, as many of you know. So I’m trying to relate it to things that are generally known about combustion, then complicating matters from there. I’m trying to figure out the layers to take the newbie through- from most simple, to, well, does it ever end . . . ?

Here’s where I’m at currently:

How does this work for people? Anyone have suggestions for making it better?

As most of the mysteries of the universe are somewhere contained in the wider problem/opportunity of gasification, I can’t start at its many ends. But where’s the beginning before the freefall into the bottomless rabbit hole looking glass of biomass thermal conversion?

We’re discussing this explanation of gasification over in the forum here: . Give us your input.

Happy partial combusting to you on this Labor Day weekend.


Tar vs Soot testing: Soluble separation method

Bear Kaufmann finished another run on the GEK test and datalogging rig and posted the results here: This wiki page has a large collection of graphs and other data assemblies from the run. Bear is very clever. Someday he’ll get a Phd in all this. In the interim, we get to ponder his bi-weekly posting of dissertation worthy test runs and data visualizations. Thank you Bear.

The main issue he was/is trying to resolve in this test is how to measure tar. The usual “simplified tar testing method” with the greyscale seems very open to mixing the tar and soot signal on the filter paper. both tar and soot are “black”. Filtering before the sample tends to reduce both of them indiscriminately. So we’re trying instead to take the sample without any prefiltering, and dissolve the tar out of the sample with a solvent, and then measure the color/hue/greyscale of the liquid.

Does anyone here have any experience with this type of soluble tar testing method? Or otherwise have any input on the accuracy or import of the attempted tar-soot separation method?

In the pix above, and in the more detailed report linked above, you will see that most all the the test samples are black. But when these samples are put in a solvent solution, the dissolved results are quite distinct. And those results fortunately track well with how we would expect reactor conditions to vary tar production. Remember all these tar/soot tests are being done right at the reactor, before any of the filtering train of the rest of the gasifier system. We are trying to figure out the tar conditions/variations of the gasifier, not the filter performance. Here’s the graph of how the tar samples track against top of reduction temps, with both the dissolved liquid tar and greyscale of unprocessed sample plotted.

This test is a continuing series of experiments to explore the relationships between tar production and various critical measurements in the reactor. The goal is to be able to use temp and pressure readings for gasifier diagnostics and establish a formal set of “conditions needed” for clean gas production. Our hypothesis is that we can most accurately correlate tar production with temps maintained at the reduction restriction, which approximately measures how well x temp has spread and filled the hearth area for tar cracking. The graphs at the end of the report plot tar production against this top of reduction temp, as well as other variables that might be contenders for relevant control or indicating parameters.

We’re currently debating the particulars in the GEK forum here:

10% off all Gasifiers and Gasifier Parts: End of Summer Sale

Put a gasifier in your Baja beach cabana.  Or in your back-to-school backpack.  Yes, it’s the first ever (and maybe annual) APL “End of Summer / Back to School 10% Off Sale” on all things Biomass Thermal Conversion.

The rules are simple.  Buy anything between now and the end of August and take 10% off our already too low purchase prices (shipping stays the same).  This can be just a cyclone kit, or an assembled Level IV GEK, or a full Tower of Total Thermal Integration solution.  Or, just a GCU.  Well, it can be the new “Biochar Experimenter’s Kit” too.  It just has to be a new order, not one already in progress, or currently waiting in the production and shipping queue.

So if you have been hovering around a decision for a bit, the next 4 days are a good time to bring your deliberations to fruition.  Go to the usual GEK purchase page (, assemble your combination of needs and desires, and take 10% off the tally when you get to the paypal screen.

While you are considering this possibility, here is a very interesting image of a running GEK taken with a thermal imaging camera at West Point Military Academy.  Unfortunately, 10% off still doesn’t render these cameras affordable, even if we had them to sell.  More info on the particulars of the image here:


There’s also lots of interesting things going on in the forum these days.  Come take a look and hang out with your fellow gasifier geeks at:


APL releases “BEK” Biochar Experimenter’s Kit, +new videos

Hi everyone,
It’s been another exciting, breakthrough week at All Power Labs and we wanted to make sure you’ve heard the latest:

1-APL unveils new, low cost “BEK” or Biochar Experimenter’s Kit” at International Biochar Conference in Boulder, CO.
Jim Mason and Jay Hasty are in Boulder, showing off the TOTTI architecture, and more importantly unveiling APL’s new, low cost design for a Biochar Experimenters Kit, aka  the BEK, naturally.

The BEK is completely compatible with the standard GEK cowling. It supports multiple pyrolysis modes in direct combustion, indirectly heated retorts, and hot gas recycle through bed architectures. Temperature, residence time, pyrolysis modes are fully controllable for characterized Biochar making.

The entire unit with everything shown below will be available to ship in October for $4395.  We’re now accepting orders ( several were placed at the show ), and a deposit of 50% will hold your place in the queue.

Here’s a draft image, much more soon on our site and forums. This image and all content on it protected by Creative Commons/Copy Left.


2- New video:  GEK Channel episode #5: Gasification Control Unit

YouTube - Gasification Control Unit * Episode #5 on the GEK Channel_1250098220939

Chemist-in-residence Jay Hasty and computer genius Geo Hormsy show off their state of the art electronic brain for the GEK

3-User Report: Frank Mannix of Fraser, CO.

Here’s the latest from Frank’s experiments with a  GEK Powered VW Thing–he went from hooking it up, to driving, in less than an hour!
mannix drive
“I drove about 20 miles on Sunday, down to town twice, and out some back roads, and I was red hot-it worked great. I was able to get up to 45 with pedal left, and even had idle when it was pumped up good. It is kind of like a flywheel, you get it pumped up and it will supply at low draw-idle and low speed (low vacuum) for a while. Having the electric fuel pump worked real well, allowing me to boost back to running when I needed (low gas supply etc.) I am working on a century ride
after I check plugs, etc for change.”

4- Tax Credit for GEK Purchase?

One odd note we thought is worth passing along–it seems possible that the use of a GEK on a vehicle, at least in Colorado, could be considered eligible for a 75% tax credit on the purchase price. If you’re more familiar with the incentives available for this sort of thing and want to pass them along, please do.

5- Finally, a FAQ

After spending one morning too many answering the same questions, we realized we could save everyone a lot of time by building out a Frequently Asked Questions, or FAQ, section of our website. If there’s a question you don’t see answered there, drop us an email and we’ll put it in the queue to answer just as soon as we can.


All Power Labs.

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 tom 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

High Design GEK


John Kinstler's work at Salone del Moblie 2009

Amongst the hundred GEKs sold during our first year a  highlight has to be the one we sold to John Kinstler and the Art Institute of Chicago. He took our GEK to a very unexpected place, Milan for Salone del Mobile 2009.   John’s project was developed within the 2000 W Living studio at the Art Institute of Chicago.

2000 W Living refers to the average amount of power consumed by the average person living in a non-Western, not wealthy country. The average amount of power consumed by the average American in the US is nearer to 12,000 W. The goal of this studio was to explore ways of challenging we Westerners to reduce our power consumption.

His project conceives a world that can re-invent itself in the face of unprecedented challenges. Using the base form of the GEK to build from he shows the importance of harvesting new sources of locally generated energy in radically re-designed cities. Of course those radically re-degined cities will be in need of radically re-designed appliances, ie. Biomass Energy Appliances.

John is helping us all see what a future with Biomass energy will look like.

Read more about John’s project Here:

GEK goes to University

The GEK went to university….University of Minnesota at Morris to be exact. UMM was awarded a grant of $174,258 by the Renewable Energy Marketplace – Alliance for Talent Development (MNREM) initiative to develop new curriculum in biomass gasification technology.  Jim Barbour at the university partnered with ALL Power Labs to use the GEK as the platform for learning in this three-week intensive course. The Class, Renewable Energy with Biomass Gasification, taught principles of biomass gasification with a focus on chemical, biological and economic considerations of biomass energy production. All students benefited through a curriculum of  hands-on training in chemistry and biomass with classroom and lab activities.

APL’s Jim Mason went out as a guest lecturer for the last few days of class.  The class had an amazing lab set up.  Great data was gathered and more people were indoctrinated into the cult of the black goo.  Look at their set-up.

Gasification – It’s a gas!


Jess and your GEK making crew


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

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