CAD Exploration of Bio Dome

CAD Exploration of Bio Dome
This is to scale but has MANY layers turned off.

This is my first CAD exploration of bio dome systems for my summer project with my intern from Metro Early College High School. This is the most adventurous and complicated project I have yet attempted. Don’t forget last year I designed and built a BioReactor (Compost Engine) for collecting and creating compost and rainwater.

The initial plan for this project was to be a sealed and automated system, but I do not have the proper experience or resources for that experiment as of yet. It would also be cruel to raise animals in such a system as I do not yet know if I can accommodate all of their health and safety needs in this way. I am a mad scientist, but I am reasonable and never cruel.

The water tank 2.3 meters up in the air on top of the Bioreactor will deliver most of the water and water pressure for this system (In Theory). The bioreactor tower has it’s own wind turbines and solar panels. These are what will get the pumps working to reinforce the water pressure in the underground water lines to the bio dome.

Student Innovations

The interesting innovation this year is the recycling and augmentation of waste products from the animals that will be living in the bio dome. Their wastes are toxic, so they will be treated to dull the acid and mixed with rabbit wastes and algae to produce a balanced and diluted nutrient matrix. My High School intern is a Bodies Learning pathway student, and it was his idea to use an IV picc line to inject the nutrient solution into the line.

The system is under pressure, so we created a valve run-off so we can reduce pressure in the line, then there is the IV line that we can open, inject the nutrients into the line and then close it. Open the valve and water pressure will deliver the nutrients dilution right into the hydroponic base tank just like that. A very clever solution to what could have been a complicated problem.

A diagram of a PICC line and why my intern chose this idea: The hydroponics stack will be the heart of the bio dome.

The other innovation is that the way the hydroponics stacks are positioned with the central pathway between them, the greens will be harvested. The chickens that will live in the biodome will also eat the bottom layers of the microgreens and kale. This will draw more nutrients down into the lower sections of the stacks.

We will be monitoring this closely. The other benefit is that the greens become part of the nutrient collection and add to the diversity of the nutrient slurry.

The hydroponics towers will use their own water and nutrient supply as well as the majority of the renewable energy from the wind turbine and solar panels. The water for the plants in the hydroponics tower will be toxic to the animals over time, so there are two water supply lines; one for the tower, one for the sprinkler nozzles that will rain down and water the potatoes turnips in the compost beds.

Growing Human Foods as Well

The potatoes and turnips will grow well in this environment. They love the compost and nutrient rich beds. They will all have to covered over with netting to prevent curious chickens from nibbling at toxic greens or digging up roots.

The chickens will most likely “live” in a modified quonset hut in the southwest quadrant of the dome. There they can rest and scratch and stay out of the once daily rainstorm. The candidate chickens are currently incubating and will be ready in a few weeks time.

Systems Integration

This will not be the first time I have integrated animals, robots, sensors, and compost beds at Mezzacello. But it will be the first time I have done this in a REALLY enclosed ecosystem like the Bio dome. To this end there is a great deal of sensor data and automation logic and controls that will have to be in place.

The dome will most likely get really hot and steamy. OK for plants and the hydroponics systems, but sub-optimal for animals. Therefore the sensors and cameras will be constantly checking for conditions that are hazardous, and cloud-based control architectures will respond to specific sensor outputs and kick in cooling and pressurization failsafes.

Experience and Passion for a Mission

My intern has zero experience with sensors, automation or python and java. So I will be picking up the slack on that end. Apart from helping plan and build the bio dome, my intern will be tracking data and inputting it into a web-based data collection tool. Then he will graph changes and systems architecture over time.

His capstone thesis is looking at ways to mitigate hunger by integrating animals, rain and renewable energy sources to create food in modular units that can be easily deployed in famine or disaster. It will be an interesting capstone. He is motivated by the abject poverty and suffering he has seen in his travels in Asia.

That’s all any innovation needs. A passion to solve a problem and tools to solve it with. This was not my focus when I initially pitched this idea to The Columbus Foundation and The Scott’s Miracle Gro Community Garden at Franklin Park, and The PAST Foundation but it has become my de facto mission.

As always, stay tuned. I am sure there will be more coming! And remember, stay curious!

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