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Do-It-Yourself NItrogen Maker
You can make your own nitrogen fertilizer using only air as a raw material with a new do-it-yourself nitrogen maker that two engineers are trying to bring to market.
Richard Treharne of Melbourne Beach, Fla., and James Riley, Yellow Springs, Ohio, hope to put a small home-size unit on the market for about $200 that would produce enough nitrogen to take care of an average sized lawn and garden. It uses less than 200 watts of power.
They've also built several large 3,000 watt farm-sized units that have been in-stalled at third world country locations around the world which have cheap hydro-electric power but no access to nitrogen.
Unit consists of an electrode running through center of an iron pipe. As voltage runs through center electrode, an electric arc forms between it and the pipe, splitting off nitrogen from air entering the bottom of the pipe. It's then funneled into an absorption column containing limestone and water, turning it into nitric acid. The absorption column can also be filled with phosphate rock or wood ashes to make a final product that contains phosphate, potassium, and other trace minerals as well as nitrogen.
As designed, Trehame says the nitrogen produced would not be cost-competitive with nitrogen fertilizer produced conventionally from natural gas. But if components of the system could be made more efficient - or if you use "free" electricity from solar or wind energy, for example - it could become a viable alternative to petroleum-based nitrogen.
Treharne and Riley are looking for a manufacturer.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Richard Trehame, 300-D Versailles Drive, Mel-bourne Beach, Fla. 32951 (ph 407 768-1139).

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1993 - Volume #17, Issue #4