and the central role
it plays in B2M research.

What is Obtainium?

Why is it important?

Examples of Obtainium in B2M

Exceptions to using Obtainium

four pneumatic cylnders
found at Goodwill

What is Obtainium?

     Obtainium is short-hand for a material or component that is readily available and cheap. Good examples would be most any component made for general automotive use.

     Well-funded research organizations can focus on components that are special made and expensive, sometimes to the point where such components enter the realm known as "unobtainium."

     Since Windward's B2M research is funded either internally or by
True Fans of this work, our primary focus is on what can be done with mass produced materials that are appropriate for re-purposed applications. The major exception is when safety concerns require new or purpose-designed materials. For example, it's fine to use rebuilt hydraulic cylinders for compressing air, but not for compressing pure oxygen.

     We're especially delighted when we can repurpose materials that otherwise were on their way to the landfill or to be melted down as scrap metal.

Why is it important?

     The use of obtainium is key to B2M's approach for multiple reasons.
  •      The history of woody-biomass conversion is littered with large-scale, well-funded programs that failed to perform as expected. When project milestones weren't met, funding wasn't extended and the projects died a lonely death.

         To avoid repeating this sad tale, B2M is focused on building small, inexpensive models that address aspects of the overall process, thereby providing immediate feedback which can be quickly integrated into the design. The shorter the turn-around-time between one experimental model and the next, the faster the research can move forward.

  •      While the immediate goal is to develop technology that can help the Windward community become more self-reliant, the long-term goal is to see this technology replicated by other communities in deep country. The math is simple: the more expensive the equipment, the fewer the number of communities that will be able to take advantage of this technology. The broad use of obtainium‒where practical‒will increase the number of rural communities that will be able to use this work.

  •      Obtainium components are "knowns" in that their characteristics are well-defined by long standing usage. In that "research is what you do when you don't know what you're doing," the reliance on materials that are relatively understood because of their utility in every-day activities frees up time, attention and funds for other aspects of the project.

Examples of Obtainium in B2M

     The heart of the B2M Project involves a lot of gas compression. The pressures involved can be roughly grouped into four categories:

Exceptions to Using Obtainium?

     The attractions to using obtainium are its ready availability, known characteristics and low cost, but it's important to not let those desirable features draw one into using a material in a way that's unsafe. If you're not sure if a given use is safe, then it's best to presume that it's not.

     It's also important to remember that while a particular piece of obtainium may be usable in some pressurized applications, that suitability can be compromised. Propane tanks make for a good example in that they're useful for constructing various sorts of gasification systems, especially TLUD designs.
[Note 3]

a TLUD gasifier made from
a 25 gallon propane tank with a
heat shroud made from a
water pressure tank

     Once appropriate precautions have been taken to ensure that all combustible materials (such as propane vapors) have been displaced with non-combustibles (such as water), cylinders that originally held propane can be cut apart and welded back together in a variety of useful ways. One thing that should not be done with a former propane cylinder that been cut or welded is to attempt to return it to use as a pressure container. Because it's been modified, it's not a propane cylinder any more‒it's just a useful form of scrap metal.

     And appearances can be deceiving--the fact that a pipe fitting (for example) can screw into an application is no guarantee that it can handle a higher pressure than it was designed for. When using obtainium, it's very important to take advantage of the "known characteristics" aspect. In this age of the Internet, there's really no excuse for not taking the time to look up the specifications on components you're thinking of using in some novel way.

     In this sort of work, ignorance isn't bliss.

Note 1

     For practical purposes, 1 bar is equivalent to a pressure of 15 pounds per square inch.

Note 2

     If each bar is approximately equal to 15 pounds per square inch, you may be wondering how does 4 bar equate to a pressure of 45 pounds psi? The reason is that we tend to think of 1 bar, the pressure of the atmosphere around us, as being equal to 0 psi. In fact, what we naturally breath is air at 15 psi relative to a vacuum (i.e no pressure at all). Another way to express it is that we breathe air at 0 psi relative, and 15 psi absolute.

     The distinction is important in regards to the first stage of compression, but progressively less relevant at the end of each successive stage, i.e. for practical purposes there's not enough difference between 63 bar relative and 64 bar absolute to bother noting. This is similar to the way that 1K of computer memory is actually 1024 bytes instead of a clean one thousand, but for convenience sake, people just call it 1K.

Note 3

     TLUD stands for Top Lit Up Draft, a type of gasifier that's easy to construct and use, but which produces a tarry sort of gas that's unsuitable for use as a fuel in an internal combustion engine, primarily because the tar will condense on the intake valves and glue the engine together once it cools down.

     TLUDs are generally used in applications where the gas produced is used to fuel an oven, a burner, a water heater, etc., applications in which the high-energy tar will be burned before it can condense and cause problems.