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He Turns Grass Clippings Into Logs
“Most commercial logs have petroleum products for energy value and to get the fire going quickly. We use all natural materials,” says Syed Imam, senior USDA research chemist at the ARS Bioproduct Chemistry & Engineering laboratory in Albany, Calif., who spent a couple years developing fireplace logs made out of grass clippings.
  Freshly cut grass is spread out, air dried to less than 5 percent moisture, and mixed with soy wax as a binder. Imam also experimented with adding oils such as lavender, peppermint and eucalyptus to add pleasant aromas to the logs.
  “Our biggest challenge was making a product that compares with other commercial logs that use chemicals. We had to find the process that allowed optimal densification. The major thing that drives burning is air pockets. You have to use the right force to get the correct density,” Imam says.
  In independent lab testing, grass logs were compared with other commercial brand logs. The grass logs burned longer, cleaner and had a better flame property, but also had more ash.
  Because there’s no petroleum in them, the logs are lighter and smell better, Imam says.
  Estimated cost for materials to manufacture each log is 22 to 33 cents – not considering the equipment, energy and labor costs.
  Besides logs, Imam creates fire pellets and fire starters with grass clippings. Logs include 60 percent grass clippings, and the pellets and starters use a smaller percentage.
  As a USDA-ARS employee, he did the research in a cooperative agreement with New Venture Ideas, Inc., in Pittsburg, Calif., which may use the research to develop products for marketing.
  The USDA and the New Venture Ideas, Inc. jointly hold the patent, but nonexclusive licenses may also be considered for other entrepreneurs to bring the technology to market place. There has been plenty of interest in the U.S., Imam says, and from Europe as well.
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Syed Imam, USDA-ARS Western Regional Research Center, 800 Buchanan St., Albany, Calif. 94710 (ph 510 559-5794, syed.imam@ars.usda.gov).

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2013 - Volume #37, Issue #2