Design inspiration can be found in almost anything. Case in point: a fuel tank based on the tubes inside human intestines could be used to make natural gas-powered cars a more viable alternative to petrol models.
Natural gas causes fewer emissions than petrol. However its power density is lower, so cars that use the fuel need to carry larger, heavier loads of the stuff in order to have the same driving range as their more conventional alternatives.
San Francisco technology firm Otherlab has come up with a solution that does away with large, heavy fuel tanks. Instead, it emulates the tubes inside the human intestines, which are folded back and forth in order to maximise storage capacity.
Otherlab’s solution uses high-pressure cylindrical stainless steel or carbon fibre tubes piped around the car, allowing the natural gas to flow through the car’s wheel arches, roof supports and front wings like blood in our veins or food and farts passing through our intestines.
It’s a great idea and one that purportedly reduces the need for bulky fuel tanks that might limit passenger or luggage space, but is it safe? What happens in the event of a crash?
Well the good news is that, unlike petrol, natural gas has a narrow flammability range, which means it won’t ignite quite as easily, and because it’s a gas it disperses quickly in the event of a leak rather than spilling into puddles waiting for someone to drop a lit cigarette into it. It’s perfectly safe — unless you happen to be this bloke.
US government energy research arm ARPA-E has given Otherlab a $250,000 grant to develop the technology, however the concept is still in the early stages so we will have to wait a while before seeing a car with intestines.