By Alec | 3ders.org
Critical product designer Yi-Wen Tseng has come up with a speculative concept that, inspired by the cow’s digestive system, would use 3D printed biotechnology to produce methane and fuel cars. Known as the ‘Digestive Car,’ the project is both a creative way to bring awareness to the threat of global warming, and an eccentric science project that is just begging to be brought to life.
Tseng’s motivation is purely environmental. Currently, mankind’s reliance on and over-consumption of fossil fuels—particularly when it comes to our addiction to automobiles—is one of the greatest threats to our planet, significantly increasing the rate of global warming and depleting Earth’s resources. By the same token, cows are known for their ability to expel large amounts of methane gas, a particularly attractive alternative fuel, since it produces less carbon dioxide than petrol or diesel. So, in order to contribute to a cleaner environment and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, why not use the methane produced by cows to power our cars?
Of course, using real cows would be both tricky and dangerous (for both the driver and animal, we’d imagine). Instead, Tseng’s design utilizes a set of four 3D printed hybrid cow stomachs, which are attached to the back of a vehicle and used to produce methane. The shape and structure of each stomach are designed to strengthen their bio-functions, and in order to monitor their ‘health’ while driving the stomach bags are turned inside out.
The first stomach is the rumen, where the ‘food’ (a.k.a. grass) is stored and broken down by micro-bacteria. The second stomach is known as the reticulum, which thanks to its honeycomb-like walls filters out ‘hardware’ such as screws or stones that might have been mixed up in the grass.
Next up comes the omasum, another filtration level, which only allows fine particles of digested feed to pass through to the fourth and final stomach, the abomasum. This not-so-pretty-looking device produces the stomach juice and passes the final broken-down food pieces to the intestines. At this stage, the leftover waste can be removed and used as compost, while the resulting methane is used as gas for the car’s engine.
– Yi-Wen Tseng
“By collecting the energy from nature it is then contributed back in to the environment,” said Tseng. “This bio vehicle process itself represents the circulation of ecological systems.”
The project is still only in the concept stages, and Tseng has made no announcements about whether she will actually take it into production. Given that the idea was inspired by nature, and that 3D bioprints already do exist and are used in organ transplants, it doesn’t seem that far-fetched. Also, while Tseng’s design shows a somewhat bizarre, boxy-looking vehicle covered by glass cubes, there’s no reason developers couldn’t begin by working with more common, present-day vehicles.
On the other hand, the Digistive Car may only be a “fictional future,” meant to critique our present living situation, and to “open the discussion about the issues surrounding global warming.” Either way, it’s an incredibly unique idea, and one we hope will inspire the use of 3D printed biotechnology for creating a more sustainable, eco-friendly future for us all.
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