Skip to comments.The Prophet of Garbage
Posted on 02/16/2007 5:07:13 AM PST by Red Badger
Joseph Longo's Plasma Converter turns our most vile and toxic trash into clean energyand promises to make a relic of the landfill
Joseph Long's Plasma Converter
HOW IT WORKS Startech's trash converter uses superheated plasma to reduce garbage to its molecuar components. Click the image for a closer look at how the process works.
It sounds as if someone just dropped a tricycle into a meat grinder. Im sitting inside a narrow conference room at a research facility in Bristol, Connecticut, chatting with Joseph Longo, the founder and CEO of Startech Environmental Corporation. As we munch on takeout Subway sandwiches, a plate-glass window is the only thing separating us from the adjacent lab, which contains a glowing caldera of plasma three times as hot as the surface of the sun. Every few minutes theres a horrific clanking noisegrinding followed by a thunderous voomp, like the sound a gas barbecue makes when it first ignites.
Is it supposed to do that? I ask Longo nervously. Yup, he says. Thats normal.
Despite his 74 years, Longo bears an unnerving resemblance to the longtime cover boy of Mad magazine, Alfred E. Neuman, who shrugs off nuclear Armageddon with the glib catchphrase What, me worry? Both share red hair, a smattering of freckles and a toothy grin. When such a man tells me Im perfectly safe from a 30,000˚F arc of man-made lightning heating a vat of plasma that his employees are controlling in the next roomwell, Im not completely reassured.
To put me at ease, Longo calls in David Lynch, who manages the demonstration facility. Theres no flame or fire inside. Its just electricity, Lynch assures me of the multimillion-dollar system that took Longo almost two decades to design and build. Then the two usher me into the lab, where the gleaming 15-foot-tall machine theyve named the Plasma Converter stands in the center of the room. The entire thing takes up about as much space as a two-car garage, surprisingly compact for a machine that can consume nearly any type of wastefrom dirty diapers to chemical weaponsby annihilating toxic materials in a process as old as the universe itself. Called plasma gasification, it works a little like the big bang, only backward (you get nothing from something). Inside a sealed vessel made of stainless steel and filled with a stable gaseither pure nitrogen or, as in this case, ordinary aira 650-volt current passing between two electrodes rips electrons from the air, converting the gas into plasma. Current flows continuously through this newly formed plasma, creating a field of extremely intense energy very much like lightning. The radiant energy of the plasma arc is so powerful, it disintegrates trash into its constituent elements by tearing apart molecular bonds. 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 syngasa mixture of primarily hydrogen and carbon monoxide that can be converted into a variety of marketable fuels, including ethanol, natural gas and hydrogen.
Perhaps the most amazing part of the process is that its self-sustaining. Just like your toaster, Startechs Plasma Converter draws its power from the electrical grid to get started. The initial voltage is about equal to the zap from a police stun gun. But once the cycle is under way, the 2,200˚F syngas is fed into a cooling system, generating steam that drives turbines to produce electricity. About two thirds of the power is siphoned off to run the converter; the rest can be used on-site for heating or electricity, or sold back to the utility grid. Even a blackout would not stop the operation of the facility, Longo says.
It all sounds far too good to be true. But the technology works. Over the past decade, half a dozen companies have been developing plasma technology to turn garbage into energy. The best renewable energy is the one we complain about the most: municipal solid waste, says Louis Circeo, the director of plasma research at the Georgia Institute of Technology. It will prove cheaper to take garbage to a plasma plant than it is to dump it on a landfill. A Startech machine that costs roughly $250 million could handle 2,000 tons of waste daily, approximately what a city of a million people amasses in that time span. Large municipalities typically haul their trash to landfills, where the operator charges a tipping fee to dump the waste. The national average is $35 a ton, although the cost can be more than twice that in the Northeast (where land is scarce, tipping fees are higher). And the tipping fee a city pays doesnt include the price of trucking the garbage often hundreds of miles to a landfill or the cost of capturing leaky methanea greenhouse gasfrom the decomposing waste. In a city with an average tipping fee, a $250-million converter could pay for itself in about 10 years, and thats without factoring in the money made from selling the excess electricity and syngas. After that break-even point, its pure profit.
Someday very soon, cities might actually make money from garbage.
The whole article can be found at the link, 5 pages.......
Renewable energy PING!........
I don't know what all this means, but I want it....
That's what I was thinking,too. But this is real technology that is in process now!..............
Ah the (relatively) Free-Enterprise system - nothing like it on the face of the earth for technological advancements.
If you read the whole article at the link, you'll see that there are several other companies that are also pursuing this same type of technology (plasma conversion of garbage). I wish them ALL success!............
So does this mean that hydrogen cars ARE a real possibility? I had dismissed them because it cost so much to generate the hydrogen, but with this technology, perhaps. . .
Please Freep Mail me if you'd like on/off
Yes, quite possible. But at the cost of billions and billions in infrastructure changes........
I can see a time when the word "landfill" is as old sounding as "tube radio"...............
Don't see why not.......but we can use the raw sewage for BIODIESEL!!!!!!!
"Do your civic duty and don't Reduce, Reuse, or Recycle! Your neighbors are counting on you to generate your share of trash."
But this is the ultimate in recycling!..........
Let's see if any city picks up on this. or ar they all just infantile crooks sucking on the federal teat.
Yes, but it's high tech, requires capitalism, and effectively solves a real problem. Unlike, say, can and bottle recycling, which is lo-tech, often involves threat of government force in implementation, and often creates more energy/materials waste than it saves.
Therefore the Greens will hate this.
It could actually make money for the cities and relieve some of the costs to the taxpayers!.........
A businessman friend talked of this technology fifteen years ago as a spin-off from defense research. The problem then and now is that it takes a lot of capital and time to move from concept to prototype, and to availability and impact in the marketplace. I like it -- if it works on a large scale and can generate a return, it may prove quite useful.
HOW IT WORKS Startech's trash converter uses superheated plasma to reduce garbage to its molecuar components.
It sounds as if someone just dropped a tricycle into a meat grinder. Im sitting inside a narrow conference room at a research facility in Bristol, Connecticut, chatting with Joseph Longo, the founder and CEO of Startech Environmental Corporation...
Please Freepmail me if you want on or off my infrequent Connecticut ping list.
Makes sense -- Bristol invented garbage!
So it works on the moonbat principle - put a whole lotta garbage into the head end, get some sort of expulsion out the back end, huh?
Beat me to it. Exactly my thought.
Scale this puppy up!
We need to get dozens of these converters running and start uncovering previously closed landfills.
That would be pure energy profit and the reclamation of currently "dead" land.
The Prophet of Garbage
darn it, that headline tricked me, I thought here we go, finally, here's the truth about how the koranimals wrote their book.
No way this is going to work. This is an energy loser.
Has anyone stopped to figure out how much energy goes into just PRODUCING garbage?
The garbage will be produced regardless, and will be hauled to disposal regardless, so, no, it's not an energy loser.
This will recover the energy used (at least partially) to produce the garbage, which is now being "lost" to landfills. It will still be transported, just the same, but can be returned to the "pool" of energy available for use. All energy production is an "energy loser" in some sense, else you'd have a perpetual motion scheme......
That was sarcasm, directed at the ethonal folks.