High-Powered Plasma Turns Garbage Into Gas

Sorry, today we are not discussing who Lindsey Vonn is, but instead talking about Trash, yes, real trash.

Like what you ate last night, and the leftovers didn’t make it back into a glass tupperware but instead your trash can, and that trash bag, went into a container outside to be picked up, and then brought to a landfill.

Yes, that kind of trash. We are also discussing how trash can be recycled into something profitable for everyone.

In a Wired  article, posted in 2012, research was done and proved that High-Powered Plasma turns garbage into gas.

Photo: Kevin Van Aelst

We are interested to know if this is still the same process they use in the 700-acre Columbia Ridge Landfill in Arlington, Oregon (where it was originally said to be taken place)?

Illustration: James Provost

The plasma-enhanced melter in 2012 was when it first operated in Oregon, to break down everyday garbage into its constituent atomic elements. Here’s how it work(s)(ed)?:

1/ Gasification

A conveyer belt delivers shredded trash into a chamber, where it’s mixed with oxygen and steam heated to 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit. This process, called gasification, transforms about 80 percent of the waste into a mixture of gases that are piped out of the system.

2/ Plasma Blasting

Material that doesn’t succumb to the initial heat enters a specially insulated cauldron. An 18,000-degree electric arc that runs between two electrodes creates a plasma zone in the center of the container. Exposed to this intense heat, almost all the remaining trash gets blasted into its constituent atomic elements. Again, the resulting gases are piped out and sequestered.

3/ Hazmat Capture

At the bottom of the cauldron sits a joule-heated melter, which is like coils on an electric stove and maintains a molten glass bath that traps any hazardous material left over from the plasma process.

4/ Recycling

Swirling in a taffy-like ooze, the molten glass is drawn out of the system. Now inert, it can be converted into low-value materials such as road aggregate. Metals are captured at this point, too, and later recycled into steel.

5/ Fuel Capture

The sequestered gases, known as syngas—mostly carbon monoxide and hydrogen—are cleaned and can be sold and converted to fuels like diesel or ethanol to produce electricity onsite or elsewhere.

They called their company Integrated Environmental Technologies (eventually InEnTec)

Our next post will be to know whether InEnTec is still managing their company in Oregon, and if there are new improvements made since 2012.

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