Monday, February 26, 2007

This is not your father's waste incinerator



According to this article on popsci.com, a company in Bristol, CT is on its way to commercializing a machine that uses a plasma arc to convert large quantities of waste into syngas and a "glasslike material". Though they seem to have come up short in at least one hazardous waste demonstration, the technology still has some intriguing possibilities if it works for plain-old municipal waste.
"The system is capable of breaking down pretty much anything except nuclear waste, the isotopes of which are indestructible. The only by-products are an obsidian-like glass used as a raw material for numerous applications, including bathroom tiles and high-strength asphalt, and a synthesis gas, or “syngas”—a mixture of primarily hydrogen and carbon monoxide that can be converted into a variety of marketable fuels, including ethanol, natural gas and hydrogen."

Is this for real? It seems like it would take considerably more energy to run than you would get out of the waste, but I'd need a little more input to do an energy balance. What is the energy content of typical municipal waste?

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