Solid Waste Energy

Image shows a land fill in West Perth, Australia.

Image shows a land fill in West Perth, Australia.

Waste can be converted into fuel from a variety of waste sources. Things like recapturing pollutants and refining them into usable materials or direct combustion of waste to produce energy do exist already. However, one of the most abundant sources of waste has not been made useful yet. That waste is solid waste created by consumers. Primarily this is because all existing techniques produce toxic chemicals as a byproduct. Our waste is usually anything but categorized by material so it’s very hard to avoid this environmental issue as there is no single process yet discovered that will work for all materials. However, there are a couple ideas that are worth looking at as possible solutions to make solid waste into useful energy.

Plasma Arc Waste Disposal / Energy Generation

This is a simultaneous waste treatment and electrical generator at the same time. Two electrodes are placed a set distance apart from one another and then high voltage, high current electricity is run through the system creating an arc between the two electrodes. Specific pressurized inert gases are then made to flow through the arc into a container holding the solid waste to be converted. This creates a plasma that reaches around 25,000 degrees F. The incredible heat generated is enough to break down almost every type of waste into their basic elements in a gas form. Even existing molecules are atomized and result in several atoms. This gas is then captured and becomes syngas (synthesis gas) which will later be refined into various usable fuels.

Check out this video that shows an actual plasma arc waste disposal unit and explains the process in greater detail. It also includes the various ways that the resultant syngas can be used in commercial products or as a fuel.

Waste Heat Generators

Industrial and commercial sites generate tremendous amounts of waste heat during operation. This heat is even a serious problem in some commercial sites like server rooms. Lots of money is spent fighting these heat when a better solution is to use a waste heat generator. These generators will create electricity from the heat being created by these processes. As I’m sure you can imagine there is a huge amount of industrial warehouses that produce appreciable amounts of waste heat.

Anywhere in a factory that heat is being generated it can be harnessed to heat water. This water is then used to power turbines as steam. I think these waste capturing devices hint at the direction the entire energy industry needs to take. Recapture and reuse of every possible piece of energy that exists in a specific system.



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