@WORK: Alex Green

Alex Green has created a device that turns biowaste into energy


At 93, Alex Green of Green Liquid and Gas Technologies is marketing his Green Pyrolyzer machine, a device for turning advanced solid waste to energy by advanced thermal technology, shown with a drawing of his Beta arrangement model in his home office in Gainesville on May 21, 2012.

Erica Brough/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Tuesday, May 29, 2012 at 9:45 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, May 29, 2012 at 9:45 a.m.

Alex Green first saw the importance of energy independence to a nation while flying a mission over Japan with the 20th Air Force in March 1945.

Facts

Alex E.S. Green

Age: 93
Occupation: CEO, Green Liquid and Gas Technologies
Personal: Married 66 years to Freda, five children (“We lost Linda.”), six grands, five great-grandchildren
Pets: No longer
Dream partner for lunch: “Happy with Freddie” (Freda)
Last book read: “The Air War Against Japan” by Barrett Tillman
Favorite TV show: PBS NewsHour Playing in his car: “I leave it off lately.”
Favorite listening: Classical music,
some musicals
Hobbies: “Trying to stir the pot in slow organizations. I flunked retirement.”
Education: Bachelor of science in physics, City College of New York, 1940; master of science in physics, California Institute of Technology, 1941; Ph.D. in physics, Univer- sity of Cincinnati, 1948

The crew discovered 77 Japanese warships anchored for lack of oil in Kure Anchorage and Hiroshima Bay. Using a slide rule designed by Green to attach to gun sights, they were able to measure and identify a number of major warships. A week later, U.S. aircraft returned and sank about half of the ships.

Nearly 30 years later, well into a career in nuclear physics in academia and the private sector, the Arab oil embargo again made an impression.

Green was a graduate research professor at the University of Florida, a position he would hold for 40 years before retiring in 2003.

"I decided that I should concentrate on trying to find an alternative to oil," he said.

In the mid-1980s, he came up with an energy source that combined coal slurry and natural gas, but in late 1985 the price of oil dropped from $40 to $10 a barrel.

"Everybody lost interest. Even the people who were supporting our experiment," he said from his home office last week in The Village retirement community.

He faced a similar problem with his next invention from work he started in 1996. He designed a machine that burns biowaste such as wood, food and manure to produce liquid, gas and biochar energy sources that are deoxygenated to give them greater energy output. The idea is to have the machine on-site to allow companies to burn their waste while offsetting some of their energy needs.

He patented the design in 1998 and formed Green Liquid and Gas Technologies. The latest model of his machine is being used by UF's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences to test biochar on plant soils.

Almost 15 years and 10 different machines later, he said he was about done trying to sell his Green Pyrolyzers when oil hit $100 a barrel and more federal grants for biomass became available.

"I had really decided to retire and give it all up, but suddenly a bunch of requests for proposals came out that were crying for what we wanted to do," Green said.

Now he said he has several irons in the fire.

He has designed a model — yet to be built — that he said can be scaled up to produce as much as a megawatt of energy. He is waiting to hear back on some grant proposals submitted to federal agencies. An entrepreneur is considering selling the machines to pig farms in North Carolina, and a company in Bronson that is growing algae for energy may want to build the machine.

Green's machine has been a Sweet 16 finalist for the Cade Prize all three years.

"I feel fairly confident," he said. "On the other hand, I recognize that I'm often being discounted because I'm 93. But I'm ready as soon as we get the investors. I'm ready to give up the CEO-ship."

Green noted that his first successful proposal was 70 years ago last week while at Cal Tech — an invention that measured the shock waves of atom bombs.

He has asked UF to patent his pyrolyzer concept to give him more clout against major oil companies bidding for the same grants.

"I didn't get involved in all this to make a million," he said. "I flew over the Japanese fleet when they were out of oil and they were licked. I've been conscious of that."

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