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The Prophet of Garbage
http://www.popsci.com/popsci/science/873aae7bf86c0110vgnvcm1000004eecbccdrcrd.html ^ | March 2007 issue | Michael Behar

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 energy—and promises to make a relic of the landfill

Joseph Long's Plasma Converter

Kevin Hand

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. I’m 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 there’s a horrific clanking noise—grinding 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. “That’s 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 I’m 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 room—well, I’m not completely reassured.

To put me at ease, Longo calls in David Lynch, who manages the demonstration facility. “There’s no flame or fire inside. It’s 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 they’ve 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 waste—from dirty diapers to chemical weapons—by 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 gas—either pure nitrogen or, as in this case, ordinary air—a 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 “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.

Perhaps the most amazing part of the process is that it’s self-sustaining. Just like your toaster, Startech’s 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 doesn’t include the price of trucking the garbage often hundreds of miles to a landfill or the cost of capturing leaky methane—a greenhouse gas—from the decomposing waste. In a city with an average tipping fee, a $250-million converter could pay for itself in about 10 years, and that’s without factoring in the money made from selling the excess electricity and syngas. After that break-even point, it’s pure profit.

Someday very soon, cities might actually make money from garbage.


TOPICS: Business/Economy; News/Current Events; Technical; US: Connecticut
KEYWORDS: energy; fuel; pollution
Garbage in, energy out!.........

The whole article can be found at the link, 5 pages.......

1 posted on 02/16/2007 5:07:16 AM PST by Red Badger
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To: Uncledave; sully777; Fierce Allegiance; vigl; Cagey; Abathar; A. Patriot; B Knotts; getsoutalive; ..

Renewable energy PING!........


2 posted on 02/16/2007 5:08:00 AM PST by Red Badger (Rachel Carson is responsible for more deaths than Adolf Hitler...............)
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To: Red Badger

3 posted on 02/16/2007 5:12:16 AM PST by Vaquero
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To: Red Badger

I don't know what all this means, but I want it....


4 posted on 02/16/2007 5:14:16 AM PST by Hegemony Cricket (Never let it be said that there are things we would never let be said.)
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To: Vaquero

That's what I was thinking,too. But this is real technology that is in process now!..............


5 posted on 02/16/2007 5:14:16 AM PST by Red Badger (Rachel Carson is responsible for more deaths than Adolf Hitler...............)
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To: Red Badger

Ah the (relatively) Free-Enterprise system - nothing like it on the face of the earth for technological advancements.


6 posted on 02/16/2007 5:19:07 AM PST by Psalm 73 ("Gentlemen, you can't fight in here - this is the War Room".)
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To: Psalm 73

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!............


7 posted on 02/16/2007 5:23:06 AM PST by Red Badger (Rachel Carson is responsible for more deaths than Adolf Hitler...............)
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To: Red Badger

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. . .


8 posted on 02/16/2007 5:51:44 AM PST by Fairview
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To: RedStateRocker; Dementon; eraser2005; Calpernia; DTogo; Maelstrom; Yehuda; babble-on; ...
Renewable Energy Ping

Please Freep Mail me if you'd like on/off

9 posted on 02/16/2007 6:10:17 AM PST by Uncledave
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To: Fairview

Yes, quite possible. But at the cost of billions and billions in infrastructure changes........


10 posted on 02/16/2007 6:14:09 AM PST by Red Badger (Rachel Carson is responsible for more deaths than Adolf Hitler...............)
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To: Uncledave

I can see a time when the word "landfill" is as old sounding as "tube radio"...............


11 posted on 02/16/2007 6:16:17 AM PST by Red Badger (Rachel Carson is responsible for more deaths than Adolf Hitler...............)
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To: Red Badger

Nobody knows plasma like Lt. Torres. I think she should take a look.
12 posted on 02/16/2007 6:26:34 AM PST by rabidralph
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To: Red Badger
I wonder if it will work with raw sewage?
13 posted on 02/16/2007 6:27:16 AM PST by AirForce-TechSgt (RR's quote is to long to use as a tagline.)
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To: AirForce-TechSgt

Don't see why not.......but we can use the raw sewage for BIODIESEL!!!!!!!


14 posted on 02/16/2007 6:28:39 AM PST by Red Badger (Rachel Carson is responsible for more deaths than Adolf Hitler...............)
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To: Red Badger
In the future, will your local government sponsor a "wasting campaign?"

"Do your civic duty and don't Reduce, Reuse, or Recycle! Your neighbors are counting on you to generate your share of trash."

15 posted on 02/16/2007 6:28:41 AM PST by whd23
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To: whd23

But this is the ultimate in recycling!..........


16 posted on 02/16/2007 6:33:05 AM PST by Red Badger (Rachel Carson is responsible for more deaths than Adolf Hitler...............)
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To: Red Badger

Let's see if any city picks up on this. or ar they all just infantile crooks sucking on the federal teat.


17 posted on 02/16/2007 6:55:30 AM PST by ClaireSolt (Have you have gotten mixed up in a mish-masher?)
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To: Red Badger

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.


18 posted on 02/16/2007 6:59:08 AM PST by FreedomPoster (Guns themselves are fairly robust; their chief enemies are rust and politicians) (NRA)
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To: ClaireSolt

It could actually make money for the cities and relieve some of the costs to the taxpayers!.........


19 posted on 02/16/2007 7:08:47 AM PST by Red Badger (Rachel Carson is responsible for more deaths than Adolf Hitler...............)
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To: Red Badger

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.


20 posted on 02/16/2007 7:22:25 AM PST by Rockingham
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To: Red Badger
Does this machine operate on one point twenty-one jigawatts? ;-)


21 posted on 02/16/2007 7:36:47 AM PST by NotJustAnotherPrettyFace
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To: Red Badger
"multimillion-dollar system that took Longo almost two decades to design and build."

Not to be a wet blanket, but what kind of maintenance does thing take - how many hours of operation before rebuild/repair/PM? They may wind up building this thing adjacent to an existing landfill, just in case.

If the machine will eat a days worth of garbage, how much land will it take to house the magic machine and how much on site storage should it have?

I enjoy reading these Popular Mechanics level articles, but would like o see more of the detail on the care and feeding. Any additional links?
22 posted on 02/16/2007 8:10:29 AM PST by ASOC (The phrase "What if" or "If only" are for children.)
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To: ASOC

http://www.startech.net/plasma.html

http://www.geoplasma.com/index.html

http://www.recoveredenergy.com/

http://www.pyrogenesis.com/

http://www.enviroarc.com/

http://www.plascoenergygroup.com/


23 posted on 02/16/2007 8:20:36 AM PST by Red Badger (Rachel Carson is responsible for more deaths than Adolf Hitler...............)
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To: RaceBannon; scoopscandal; 2Trievers; LoneGOPinCT; Rodney King; sorrisi; MrSparkys; monafelice; ...

Connecticut ping!

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. I’m 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.

24 posted on 02/16/2007 8:30:37 AM PST by nutmeg (National Security trumps everything else.)
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To: nutmeg

Makes sense -- Bristol invented garbage!


25 posted on 02/16/2007 8:59:20 AM PST by Uncledave
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To: nutmeg

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?


26 posted on 02/16/2007 10:01:20 AM PST by Andonius_99 (There are two sides to every issue. One is right, the other is wrong; but the middle is always evil.)
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To: Vaquero

Beat me to it. Exactly my thought.


27 posted on 02/16/2007 10:15:18 AM PST by cogitator
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To: Andonius_99
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?

LOL! ;-D

28 posted on 02/16/2007 4:35:44 PM PST by nutmeg (National Security trumps everything else.)
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To: Red Badger

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.


29 posted on 02/16/2007 4:47:30 PM PST by Dr.Zoidberg (Mohammedanism - Bringing you only the best of the 6th century for fourteen hundred years.)
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To: Berosus; Cincinatus' Wife; Convert from ECUSA; dervish; Ernest_at_the_Beach; FairOpinion; Fedora; ..
printer-friendly one page version

30 posted on 02/17/2007 8:48:51 PM PST by SunkenCiv (I last updated my profile on Thursday, February 15, 2007. https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/)
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To: SunkenCiv

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.


31 posted on 02/17/2007 10:13:27 PM PST by Fred Nerks (Read THE LIFE OF MUHAMMAD free pdf download. Link on my bio page.)
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To: Red Badger

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?


32 posted on 02/17/2007 10:24:02 PM PST by Balding_Eagle (If America falls, darkness will cover the face of the earth for a thousand years.)
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To: Balding_Eagle

The garbage will be produced regardless, and will be hauled to disposal regardless, so, no, it's not an energy loser.


33 posted on 02/18/2007 7:37:45 PM PST by SunkenCiv (I last updated my profile on Thursday, February 15, 2007. https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/)
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To: Balding_Eagle; SunkenCiv

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......


34 posted on 02/19/2007 5:06:46 AM PST by Red Badger (Rachel Carson is responsible for more deaths than Adolf Hitler...............)
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To: SunkenCiv; Red Badger

That was sarcasm, directed at the ethonal folks.


35 posted on 02/19/2007 7:01:54 AM PST by Balding_Eagle (If America falls, darkness will cover the face of the earth for a thousand years.)
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To: Balding_Eagle
Oh, sorry. :') Look, you can't be subtle with me. You have to use something like this:
Image and video hosting by TinyPic

36 posted on 02/19/2007 9:11:08 AM PST by SunkenCiv (I last updated my profile on Thursday, February 15, 2007. https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/)
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To: Red Badger
Hey wait a minute... are you suggesting that perpetual motion doesn't work?!? What's the meaning of this?!?!
M.C. Escher -- Waterfall

37 posted on 02/19/2007 9:13:13 AM PST by SunkenCiv (I last updated my profile on Thursday, February 15, 2007. https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/)
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