Plasma Gasification

Plasma gasification is a new method of garbage disposal which not only eliminates garbage, but also has the added benefit of being able to generate electricity. Using technology developed by NASA, an electrical arc creates high energy and high temperature to break down garbage into its component elements - literally ripping electrons from the air. This is a similar concept to fluorescent lighting where a low voltage electrical arc is passed between two electrodes inside a sealed glass tube. The radiant energy that is generated is what creates the fluorescent light. A typical plasma gasification process is as follows:

1. Garbage is shredded to break it down into smaller pieces.

2. The shredded garbage is then loaded into a sealed plasma chamber which contains nitrogen or air.

3. A 650 volt arc of electrical current is created between two electrodes to create plasma, which is an ionized gas that carries a current and creates a magnetic field. The temperatures generated can exceed almost 11,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

4. The extreme energy and temperature causes molecules to break apart, essentially disintegrating the garbage.

5. The byproducts are:
  • Organic compounds become "volatilized" and turn into synthetic gas, also called "syngas".
  • Inorganic compounds become "vitrified" and turn into a hard, glassy substance.
  • Metals melt and combine with the inorganic compounds and turn into a substance called "slag".
The syngas that is produced reaches temperatures around 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit and can be fed into a cooling system to produce steam which can power turbines to produce electricity. This electricity can be used to make the system power itself, while the extra electricity can be used elsewhere in the facility or sold back to the grid.

Atlanta, GA based company Geoplasma is planning to open the first plasma gasification plant in the United States in 2011. The plant will be built in Florida and will provide electricity to 50,000 homes by processing 1,500 tons of garbage per day.

Some of the leading companies in the field of plasma gasification include: