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Power, Water and Refrigeration in One Box 148

Roland Piquepaille writes "Engineers at the University of Florida have developed and built a system that can provide power, water and refrigeration from a single unit. This project, funded by the U.S. Army, will lead to units small enough to fit inside a military jet or a large truck. The prototype system is already more efficient than conventional turbines. And it is also environmentally friendly because it can use traditional fossil fuels as well as biomass-produced fuels or hydrogen and releases only small amounts of pollutants. This kind of system could be used as a mobile unit in case of hurricanes or wars. But it might also be connected to the normal power grid in fixed locations."
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Power, Water and Refrigeration in One Box

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  • Wars? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Servo ( 9177 ) <`dstringf' `at' `gmail.com'> on Saturday August 05, 2006 @04:26PM (#15853235) Journal
    This kind of system could be used as a mobile unit in case of hurricanes or wars.

    Good thing we have plenty of both to field test the units!
  • by crazyjeremy ( 857410 ) * on Saturday August 05, 2006 @04:29PM (#15853245) Homepage Journal
    This will be perfectly functional in keeping beer cold in your car.
    • by Rix ( 54095 ) on Saturday August 05, 2006 @05:42PM (#15853440)
      And you could reasonably call the water "American beer".
      • Q: Why is American Beer like making love in a canoe?

        A: Because they're both fscking near water.
      • Re:In Kentucky... (Score:2, Interesting)

        by eheldreth ( 751767 )
        While mass produced rice cut beers (bud, miller, etc) may be fairly uninteresting there are plenty of great regional beers. There is a beer in P.A. called Yuengling which is incredibly great, they have a black and tan to die for and pretty good porters and lagers to. I will admit I've not tried their ail / verity's, I'm more of a dark beer guy. There are also all kinds of brewpub type micros making for a good drink. You just have to step outside the norm. To be honest though I don't mind Sam Adam's but
    • Or in your military jet...
  • by Stephen Tennant ( 936097 ) on Saturday August 05, 2006 @04:29PM (#15853249) Journal
    to grow WEED, man!
  • Neato (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Hawthorne01 ( 575586 )
    Depending on the cost/unit of these (and let's face it, given previous military "innovations" like the $900 hammer...), this would be a boon to developing countries, allowing people to get off the often-unrelieable power grids, and providing valuable food storage and clean water, too. Are you listening, Mr Gates? Here's where your billions might earn you a little bit of karma.

    Heck, *I'd* like one. Be darn nice for a cottage retreat.
    • Re:Neato (Score:5, Interesting)

      by kfg ( 145172 ) * on Saturday August 05, 2006 @04:47PM (#15853300)
      . . .this would be a boon to developing countries, allowing people to get off the often-unrelieable power grids. . .

      Small community sized, multifuel turbine based power generating plants are already perfectly available on the market. They used to make them just a few blocks from where I'm sitting right now. There is not and has never been (remember, once upon a time in the electrical age it did not yet exist) a need to be on a national grid just to get electricity. You can make your own if you want.

      But the world bank does not finance local community projects in third world countries. They finance massive power dams with American equipment and labor, sucking said country dry of financial resources and reducing independence.

      Why yes, it is a conspiracy; and a very effective one.

      • Yo, K-dog! =)

        I have a question for you. Am I right in thinking that the term "gas turbine" has nothing to do with gasoline, and is more about what makes the turbine move? So bio diesel could be used in this (and in any other) gas turbine? I'm thinking this must be the case, since the Army does its best to standardize on diesel.

        Which makes me wonder (tenuously related to the subject at hand):

        Why isn't DoD funding going to bio diesel research? I mean, other than the obvious reason that the government as a who
        • Re:Neato (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Hawthorne01 ( 575586 ) on Saturday August 05, 2006 @05:37PM (#15853426)
          There's a Congressional study out on just that (no link 'cause it's Saturday and I'm lazy :), but IIRC, I saw it on Defensetech.org).: How can the military use more alternative fules?

          The Air Force *guzzles* fuel, the Abrams is a gashog, and the longer the supply line, the more vulnerable the army. Been that way since at least Napeleon.

          Now, it's a Congressional study, so don't expect results within a half-century, but it's a start.
          • Re:Neato (Score:2, Informative)

            by kfg ( 145172 ) *
            Been that way since at least Napeleon.

            Perhaps the most perspicacious quartermaster until Sherman. His troops used to make black powder "on the go," as it were, by extracting nitrates from their own shit.

            There is a legend that ole Nappy rejected Cugnot's steam tractor because he was frightened when it crashed into a stone wall. The stone wall story is fact, but the scaring Napoleon part of it is aprocryphal.

            My guess is that Napoleon the quartermaster realized the amount of fuel that would go into this thing
            • I don't know if you've ever read any Cormac McCarthy (All the Pretty Horses), but there's this one bit in Blood Meridian where a group of men out scalp hunting runs out of powder and becomes the hunted. They're far enough away from the Apaches they were hunting to run, but not to run very far before they're caught. This one character has them do strange things that takes them on a journey to a cave to collect bat guano, an extinct volcano to collect sulfur, etc. Then they have to pee on the mix and hope it
        • well, from what i remember from reading around, the us marine corp is working on using stuff like E15 and what not in bases in the us. then theres the whole thing bout having tanks and what nots running on electricity posing a problem because of battery recharge times. i mean, sure they could probably just arrange for entire batterys to be swapped, but i imagine thats somewhat manpower/time consuming, as opposed to sticking in a hose.
          • The big push for ethanol is being lead by both Big Ag and by Big Oil because it requires cash crops and requires big infrastructure. Bio diesel does not require a big infrastructure. It can be done in your backyard and yet can be scaled up as big as you would want to get. Most of the Army's vehicles, including AFVs, MBTs and trucks run on diesel. Not sure about Marine vehicles, but I'd think it'd be similar (outside of aircraft, of course).
        • Re:Neato (Score:3, Informative)

          by idiotnot ( 302133 )
          Why isn't DoD funding going to bio diesel research? I mean, other than the obvious reason that the government as a whole is in the pockets of the oil industry. Seems to me that less dependence on foreign oil is a major strategic advantage for the military (and by extension, the U.S.).

          Note from TFA, "Lear said further research is required to make the plant more compact and otherwise enhance its performance. That's one of the goals of the Army's Small Business Innovation Research Grant to the Gainesville com
          • That's one of the goals of the Army's Small Business Innovation Research Grant to the Gainesville company, Triad Research.

            Triad Research. Triad [wikipedia.org] Research.

            What's next, Cosa Nostra Engineering?
        • Re:Neato (Score:5, Insightful)

          by c6gunner ( 950153 ) on Saturday August 05, 2006 @08:26PM (#15853844)
          I mean, other than the obvious reason that the government as a whole is in the pockets of the oil industry.

          Yeah, ofcourse. That they could make 10 times as much money if they develop a viable alternative to oil is, ofcourse, not an incentive to them. They're only in the "pockets of the oil industry" because....what exactly? The oil company CEO's have the whole government brainwashed? Or maybe they just give the worlds best blow-jobs?

          Whoever manages to be the first to bring a viable alternative to the market will be an overnight billionaire. The millitary contrat alone would be enough to quadruple Bush's family fortune. So what possible reason would any politician have to oppose (or refuse to support) research into alternative fuels? I just can't understand how some people can hold such simplistic world views. While there may be quite a few corrupt politicians, it takes a special kind of paranoid to beleive that they've all been bought off, and a special kind of ignorant to beleive that they're not intelligent enough to realize the profits (and political advantages) that could be made by developing alternate fuel sources.
          • The oil company CEO's have the whole government brainwashed? Or maybe they just give the worlds best blow-jobs?

            They don't have to have the whole government brainwashed, just most of the decision makers, i.e., the elected and those that serve at the pleasure of the elected. I don't know about blow jobs, but it's fairly obvious that they are very skilled at reach-arounds.

            Your naivete is astonishing.
          • Why on earth would a politician vote against what must be the biggest lobbying/donor group on the planet?
          • The oil industry know exactly how much oil is left in the ground. They also hold blocking patents on every alternative technology to prevent anyone using them. Of course, car manufacturers aren't innocent; when Ford had got lean-burn technology perfected {an engine that uses excess air in combustion, so leaving no unburned fuel or CO in the exhaust} a consortium including GM and VW {who were still building vehicles which used excess fuel, chuffing out CO and unburned hydrocarbons} got together and dem
            • Instead of taking the time to debunk this nonsense (especialy the idiotic lean-burn conspiracy theory), I'll just provide a quick quote and link you to a relevant website:

              In any case, things are rapidly changing in the US. Thanks to rapidly-rising fuel prices, consumers are switching in droves from more thirsty vehicles (typically SUVs and pickups from US manufacturers) to those that get better gas mileage (typically small and medium saloon cars from Europe and Japan). Partly as a result, the big Americ

              • It's not an idiotic conspiracy theory, it's the truth. Ask anyone in Dagenham, they'll tell you about it.
                • I'll bet you also beleive that the moon landing was faked, the holocaust never happened, and 9/11 was done by the mossad so we could build an oil pipeline in afghanistan.

                  Saying that something is "the truth" doesn't make it so. You need to present a LOGICAL theory, and then back it up with some sort of evidence. As it is, the "Gas Conspiracy" has no logic to it's basic premise, nor is there any evidence to back these absurd accusations. So no, it's NOT the truth, it's the product of a paranoid mind combin
        • by mi ( 197448 )

          Why isn't DoD funding going to bio diesel research?

          How much oil, do you think, the military is using? Compared to the rest of the country — very little. They don't need bio diesel. If a tank becomes 0.1% slower because of the fuel, then fook the fuel's "environmental benefits". If it came to using the tank already, environment is of the least concern.

          Seems to me that less dependence on foreign oil is a major strategic advantage for the military (and by extension, the U.S.).

          It is the other way ar

      • Oh, and sorry about calling you K-dog. I'm getting in touch with my inner Food Court Gangsta.
    • Yeah, it's long, but it's worth reading the second page. I take time & care in writing my posts. If you're going to mod it, at least read the whole thing and breath in & out a couple of times before you hit the wrong number. We're prodded to Use the Preview Button! Check those URLs! before posting. Do the posters who carefully craft their posts like magazine articles. n.b. appropriate parties: it would be nice if the preview showed us where a page break is going to appear so we know whether to ri
    • "a boon to developing countries"

      I doubt that, there are ways to make electricity that are both cheaper and cleaner than portable gas turbines.

      "clean water"

      According to TFA, the unit provides one gallon of DIRTY water for every gallon of fuel. Would it not be vastly more efficient to simply ship 10,000 gallons of bottled water than to ship 10,000 gallons of fuel plus X number of turbines?

      "$900 hammer"

      Wake up, there are no $900 hammers, just dodgy accounting to cover the cost of "black ops".
  • So my next car will be more efficient, produce drinkable water ( never have to refill the windhield wiper reservoir again ), and have a built-in fridge?
  • refridgeration? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nietsch ( 112711 ) on Saturday August 05, 2006 @04:31PM (#15853256) Homepage Journal
    This solutions sounds pretty obvious, so it is partly brilliant. The hurray press release thoug appears to be a bit myopic. In case some disaster destroyed my town i'd be more concerned at staying warm than about my meat going off.
    But I think this unit could supply heating too, after all te rest product after all conversions have been done is carbon dioxide and hot air/heat. Just combine the radiators from the absorbtive cooling with the inlett fan of a inflatable sports hall and there you have your warm shelter. (if you don't like the refugees you could use the exaust from the generator too to put everybody to sleep :)
    • But I think this unit could supply heating too. . .

      Just as your window mounted air conditioning unit can if you turn it around. It will also provide . . .water.

      This is innate to the process.

    • by Khomar ( 529552 ) on Saturday August 05, 2006 @05:02PM (#15853341) Journal
      In case some disaster destroyed my town i'd be more concerned at staying warm than about my meat going off.

      I think the idea here is medical supplies that need to be refrigerated -- blood, perishible medication, etc. There is more to keep cool in a rescue operation than just food. Besides, the cooling mechanism was included to increase the effeciency of the turbines. The ability to have refridgeration or to generate water were nice bonuses since the original idea was to save fuel when generating energy.

    • In case some disaster destroyed my town i'd be more concerned at staying warm than about my meat going off.

      Your town is obviously somewhere poleward of the snowbelt, then. Places closer to the equator have the opposite problem. Take New Orleans, for example -- they certainly weren't worried about staying warm. Given the geometry of a sphere and the current average temperature, there's more land, and certainly people, in the warmer areas than the cooler.

      Besides, heat is easy. Just start breaking up the f
    • Refrigeration! for crying out loud.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 05, 2006 @04:42PM (#15853282)
    *shakes fist*
  • "If you're in a forward base in Iraq, it costs you the same per gallon of water as it does per gallon of fuel," said William Lear, a UF associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering. "It would be better to just have to send fuel out there, especially if you could get refrigeration and water out of it - which is what our system achieves."

    And that's exactly what this unit does. It consumes ridiculous amounts of fuel to cool off the milkshakes and hamburgers for the troops that are there to 'o

  • Fire, Water, Burn?
  • by Darth Cider ( 320236 ) on Saturday August 05, 2006 @05:11PM (#15853371)
    Dean Kamen's stirling generator [rexresearch.com] is more interesting. It produces potable water, unlike the DoD monstrosity, and can also run on any fuel. Several of them could fit in a pickup truck, which strikes me as an advantage in disaster relief situations. The air-conditioning feature of the DoD turbines is interesting, but electricity = A/C, so it's not a big deal.
    • Just imagine how much farther allong he would be in this project if he had abandoned the exercise in mental masturbation we call the segway. Dean really screwed the pooch on that one, let's hope this turns out better.
    • Dean Kamen's stirling generator is more interesting.

      No mention of efficiency in that article at all. That's the very reason why stirling engines failed to catch-on against the dangerous steam boilers it was meant to replace.

      It produces potable water, unlike the DoD monstrosity,

      The water-filtering feature of the Kamen stirling generator is interesting, but electricity = water filtering, so it's not a big deal.

    • Running an absorption chiller off a turbine "waste" heat is much more efficient than running a reciprocating or centrifugal chiller. This isn't that novel, aside possibly from the fact that it is a single unit. Pre-cooling coils are fairly common on co-gen turbines, and are often run off an absorption "pony" chiller.

      The military is in dire need of a good APU source; they try everything. The existing turbines they use are a mess, so anything better is an improvement. This is why they have poured so much
  • Friendly(er) (Score:5, Informative)

    by NitsujTPU ( 19263 ) on Saturday August 05, 2006 @05:17PM (#15853388)
    And it is also environmentally friendly because it can use traditional fossil fuels as well as biomass-produced fuels or hydrogen and releases only small amounts of pollutants.

    People say that that's "friendly," but, really, it's friendlier. You have to get the hydrogen, which generally means investing energy into its production, so, hydrogen is only as friendly as the means of production. Biomass is probably biodiesel in this case, which also releases pollutants, but makes less CO2 when burned.

    Even so, it sounds like a rather nice unit, and, yes, it is friendlier.
  • by viking2000 ( 954894 ) on Saturday August 05, 2006 @05:40PM (#15853436)
    So you install a intercooler on an engine to improve efficiency, and suggest seperately that you drink the water that comes out of the tailpipe.

    Avoid specifics as much as possible, and wrap it up on in miltary and engineering terms, and call it technology news.

    Also: Frome the article "A few percentage points (improved efficiency) might not seem like much, but it makes a big difference when fuel is scarce or expensive"

    So get a diesel engine instead: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diesel_engine [wikipedia.org] :A diesel engine is 200% as efficient as a gas turbine.
  • Now there's an irony for you. So that when they destroy the planet, at least it's being done in a way that won't cause unnecessary harm.
  • Mad Max (Score:5, Funny)

    by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Saturday August 05, 2006 @06:21PM (#15853532) Homepage Journal
    As long as I'm paying the US military to destroy civilization as we know it, I'm glad that some of the investment is producing gear I can use to survive when their job is done.
  • Title (Score:3, Funny)

    by bruno.fatia ( 989391 ) on Saturday August 05, 2006 @06:32PM (#15853558)
    When I first looked at the title I thought it was about Watercooled machines (or xboxes)
  • Marine applications? (Score:2, Informative)

    by cbhacking ( 979169 )
    One very practical day-to-day use of such a device would be at sea, both for larger yachts and possibly smaller military vessels (especially on detached duty). Having lived on a private boat for several years (too small for this, but I know a few that weren't) I can tell you that the very things listed here - power, refridgeration, and water - are exactly what boats need. The kind of engineering they did with the airflow could also be used to improve efficiency using seawater, and refridgeration is a huge r
  • by anubi ( 640541 ) on Saturday August 05, 2006 @08:12PM (#15853810) Journal
    I will bet you good odds this is a gas turbine coupled to a Lithium Bromide absorption chiller.

    This technology has been used on ships for years.

    For those of you old as I am, remember the old Arkla-Servel Gas Refrigerators? They used a very similar absorption technique, with all gravitic pumps. No moving parts except the door. Beautiful design. Some camper refrigerators still use the technology. They use an ammonia-water-hydrogen mix in the absorber.

    These things work very similar to those athletic "cold packs" that get cold when they are mixed, except in this case, the active ingredients are looped back to be separated by thermal processes then remixed in an endless cycle. This is an oversimplified explanation, but its roughly how they work. In the far more efficient absorption process, a hygroscopic absorbent is used in lieu of a compressor to effect the pressure differences required for the phase changes responsible for the heat transfers.

    In a Lithium-Bromide system, the process runs at a vacuum so the boiling point of water is below room temperature. By doing this, the actual refrigerant is plain old simple WATER!

    Very environmentally friendly. In the event of a rupture, you lose vacuum and the system stops working. No explosions or smelly spraying as an ammonia-based system will do.

    Why do I know about this? For those of you who have read some of my previous posts, I used to work at the Chevron Pascagoula Oil Refinery. It was the first job I had. We had a absorber unit over there which we used to keep our LNG tanks cold, using nothing more than waste heat from the refinery. I was fascinated as hell by that box, which looked like nothing more than two large pipes sitting one atop the other, one was hot, the other cool, while the LNG tanks were cold.

    This was in the early 70's, and it was "old technology" then, but fascinating as hell to me. Luckily, when I let the management at Chevron know I found the thing so interesting, they put me in charge of it and I could study it to my heart's content.

    And why am I posting here? I am very frustrated.

    Over 100 people have just died during this latest heat wave to hit Southern California. I want so bad to start work on building another absorber, much like the one at Chevron, but I want to put the Generator unit at the focal point of a linear parabolic reflector, oriented East-West so it will track the sun without having to move it, and get the Sun to power the whole thing. So the hotter it gets outside, the colder it will get inside. I want to use those brand new "Segmented Electro Magnetic Array" motors they are developing for washing machines to give me fine control over the refrigerant pumps so I can track out variances in insolation and loading so I can keep the fluids balanced in the system. There is a lot of work on programming AVR microcontrollers so the system becomes intelligent enough to make the most cold as the system parameters vary.

    In short, I am old, have the stuff on how to do it in me, but don't have money to do it, and don't have the energy any more to commute and make pretty for the workplace. This is something that if I do it, I am going to have to do it on my own house so I don't have to spend all my energies making presentations, looking pretty for the management folks, and useless commuting.

    Its frustrating to see how frivolously we - as a society - spend our existing resources. Here we are, burning through our fossil oil - which will never be replaced - at a rate of 85 million barrels per day. Investment bankers, IP lawyers, executives, etc are "earning" more money than I will see in a lifetime, yet my dreams - as an engineer/scientist - will never see the light of day due to my lack of "people skills" which are required by the executive corporate hiring manager... and I have no idea how to get one of those "grants".

    And yes, it will probably take several million dollars to make the first one, as I will have t

    • I think you should go for it, but I think you need to be more creative in how you approach this. Read about Kyle and how he traded one red paper clip for a house. [blogspot.com] There are a lot of folks who will want you to succeed (and I'm definitely one of them) some of whom maybe have more than you do, so if you come up with the creative angle and blog the hell out of it, create a meme people can love . . . you just might get what you wish for. And the launching pad is right here.
    • There are plenty of LiBr absorbtion airconditioners out there, you don't really need a tracking dish, those evacuated tube collectors would be quite adequate, able to get to at least 140C even in freezing conditions. They are cheap too - I bought some for about $30au each. And they are mass produced in china.

      The real problem is that there is little practical reason to make such a system, as in 99% of the places where people live a simple two-stage indirect evaporative cooler provides a cheaper, simpler an
      • saaaay.... care to post where you got those evac tube collectors from? I'm building an off-grid house in FNQ that could use those in the hot water system.

        Yes,yes, I could go *buy* a solar hot water system, but where's the fun in that?

        Reply or mail me at angry.deity at some place called gmail dotcom.

      • Well the primary reason to do this is that it's a very cool and interesting project. But the secondary reason is that it could spawn others to think about mass producing the idea. I live in New York City and if every building were using a system like this a huge amount of electricity could be saved. I'm sure a mass market version of this would require a considerable amount of R&D, but this has to be better for the environment than our current "Energy Saver" systems.
    • by eric2hill ( 33085 ) <eric.ijack@net> on Sunday August 06, 2006 @12:33AM (#15854302) Homepage
      Sounds like a good idea. Seriously. As somewhat of an inventor myself, here's a few starting points...
      • Investors don't like plunking down money without a very solid concept of what it is they are paying for.
      • Start with a drawing (any flavour of CAD will do) of the design down to the nuts and bolts that hold it together. That will give you a good idea of the raw materials that will be needed to build the contraption.
      • Spec the code that will need to be written for your microcontrollers. Don't write the code. Just write the high level logic that would be used to write the code. This will be good for estimates on time to flesh out the code. You need good coding estimates to plan when you can deliver the first prototype.
      • Read one of the most mocked quotes of Donald Rumsfeld [slate.com] a few times. You are going to have to write down the things that do do not know. Things that might go wrong, things that you'll have to "figure out", things that you will need help with, etc. You (obviously) cannot write down the things you do not know, but a little risk management goes a long way towards getting funding. People with money like to know the "known unknowns".
      • Profit is a Good Thing(TM). Explain in one paragraph (should be REALLY easy considering what you're talking about) how this investment will make money. Yes, it should be shared with everyone. But your initial investor will need to make his money back over a limited period of time. Selling a few of these to make your investor some money will be a necessity.
      • Outside help is always good. Someone else to talk over the guts of the thing. You can't do everything by yourself, and you might get to spend a few nights with your family instead of slaving away at a life-long project... :) Fire me an email if you'd like.

      Good luck.
    • But, as we all know, we don't do all that much science here in the USA anymore. If anyone does this, my hope is Haier in China will do it, as that several million dollars should be used here in the USA to buy another executive jet or yacht so the guy at the top whose time is worth several million dollars a year isn't wasted in line at an airport or is inadequately entertained.

      What a stupid comment. US companies do a lot more research than Haier does.

      Chinese companies do a good job of producing existing tech
  • Iffy numbers... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by evilviper ( 135110 ) on Saturday August 05, 2006 @09:16PM (#15853939) Journal
    [...] with all the cooling devoted to the turbine, it will be 5 percent to 8 percent more efficient than traditional turbines. With some cooling siphoned for other purposes, it was still 3 percent to 5 percent more efficient than the turbines.
    Gee, I'm just going to hazard a guess that, in that second senario, they've "siphoned" off 2 percent to 3 percent of that energy.

    They're trying to make it sound like you get water and cooling for free with this design. Really, it's just BS marketing. Water/cooling is convenient, since recent wars have been primarily in hot, arid countries.

    5-8% improvement in effeciency is a very good thing, but you might as well say "You can siphon off some of that for powering iPods, and 'it was still 3 percent to 5 percent more efficient.'"

    Also, the "cooling" aspect of it sounds like this might only be an efficiency improvement in hot areas, during the summer months. It is entirely possible the limited efficiency improvement may be outstripped by the added purchase and maintenance costs.
  • The story is scanty on details, but it seems there's nothing particularly new or efficient here.

    Intercoolers have been used for well over 50 years on all kinds of engines.

    And every jet plane has some "air packs", which take some hot compressed bleeed air from the engines and thru intercooling and expansion provide heat and cooling for the cabin. Again been done for 50+ years.

    And condensing water out of the exhaust is EXTREMELY inefficient--You've got really hot gases, 1000 degrees Celcius and up, wh

Trap full -- please empty.