Versatile System


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Invention of Javier Fernandez-Han, winner of 2009 Ashoka Lemelson Excellence Award.

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Versatile System

  1. 1. The Power of VERSATILITY
  2. 2. “An invention that is narrowly focused on solving a single problem often inadvertently creates more problems because nature is highly complex and interconnected.“ Javier Fernandez-Han Age 15 Houston, TX, USA
  3. 3. Ashoka and Lemelson Foundations’ 2009 Invent Your World Challenge inspired hundreds of youth around the world to submit invention projects that would “make life easier, the planet greener, and the world better.” Among them - Javier Fernandez-Han, a 15-year-old Houston teen who answered the challenge with The VERSATILE System - a comprehensive algae-powered system for treating waste, producing methane and bio-oil as fuel, producing food for humans and livestock, and sequestering greenhouse gases while producing oxygen. Javier Fernandez-Han Houston, TX, USA Recipient of 2009 Ashoka Lemelson Excellence Award
  4. 4. Q If The VERSATILE System is the answer, what is the question? What system can improve the quality of life in a village by providing the basic necessities of food, sanitation, energy-fuel, and income in an environmentally sustainable and technologically appropriate fashion?
  5. 5. Anaerobic digester (AD) The VERSATILE system features two parallel anaerobic digesters-algae troughs, one for producing “clean” products such as food for livestock/ humans from food scraps and another for treating sewage from the latrine and livestock manure. Each of these also produces carbon dioxide (recycled to nourish the algae), methane (stored for use as a fuel), oxygen, and algae biomass (for drying/pressing to extract oil or as feedstock for the ADs).
  6. 6. Bio-gas Upgrader The biogas upgrader separates the biogas produced by the ADs into its three main components: hydrogen sulfide, carbon dioxide and methane. Hydrogen sulfide is a gas highly toxic to humans, livestock and algae. It is neutralized by routing it through a tank filled with composted cow manure. Carbon dioxide, a potentially dangerous green house gas, is dissolved in water to become carbonic acid and directed to nourish the algae. As a green house gas, methane is 20 times more damaging to the environment than carbon dioxide. Methane is separated from the carbon dioxide and stored under pressure in a tank as fuel for lighting and cooking.
  7. 7. Vented methane burning stoves The stoves in the VERSATILE system are unique because they burn methane without polluting. A single VERSATILE system may have several stoves. The flame is enclosed in a shroud to prevent carbon dioxide from escaping and vented to direct the carbon dioxide rich oven exhaust into the algae bioreactor to accelerate algae growth.
  8. 8. Algae bioreactors Each of the two algae bioreactors in the VERSATILE system use sunlight, saltwater, carbon dioxide and nutrients from the AD wastewater to produce oxygen and algae biomass, which can be used as food for livestock and people, used as feedstock for the AD, dried and pressed for oil, or processed into food supplements.
  9. 9. PlayPump The PlayPump turns children’s play into electricity which is stored in a battery. The battery powers an air pump in the vented stoves to direct their exhaust gases to the algae bioreactors. The battery can also power small appliances such as a radio, LED lights, or cell phone chargers.
  10. 10. For more information on The VERSATILE System and other invention ventures, please visit Got an idea that can change the world? Launch your own social venture! Check out Ideas 2 Venture on