Radical Ultra-Hot Plasma Reactor Converts Toxic and Radioactive Waste to Clean Energy

March 25 2008 / by AlFin / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Environment   Year: 2008   Rating: 13 Hot

By Al Fin

Garbage and hazardous waste are becoming valuable energy feedstocks, thanks to researchers from Ukraine, Russia, and Israel. Even low level radioactive wastes, medical wastes, and toxic wastes can be converted to useful products and energy, using a new high temperature plasma reactor.

There is no need for the world to drown in a sea of garbage and toxic waste. We do not need to pollute the oceans, groundwater, or air. Being smart about toxic waste is just another way of using our most valuable resource-our brains!

Environmental Energy Resources Ltd. (EER) of Israel, is working with researchers in Russia, the Ukraine, the US, and other nations, to make sure that the future environment of Earth will be as pristine as the pre-industrial Earth.

The new reactor uses a process called “Plasma Gasification Melting Technology” (PGM) which was developed by scientists at two Russian research institutes (Kurchatov and Radon Institutes) and at Israel’s Technion Institute.

PGM Technology is suitable for the treatment of a variety of waste types:

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Research breakthrough in microbial fuel cell converts waste to energy

November 20 2008 / by Garry Golden
Category: Energy   Year: 2018   Rating: 4 Hot

What happened?
Researchers at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities believe they have found a unique species of bacteria, Geobacter sulfurreducens, that can convert wastewater organic compounds into electricity using a low cost carbon (graphite) electrode.

“Other species of bacteria may produce just as many electrons as they oxidize available fuels, but their cell membranes act like an insulator for electron transport,” said Daniel Bond, a microbiologist at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. “With Geobacter, it’s the difference between a rickety one-land bridge and a modern 12-lane highway. The electrons pass easily through internal membranes and cell walls and hop onto the electrode.” As each “hop” requires them to travel about 10 Angstroms.

Geobacter has proteins that guide electrons all the way to the electrode. “This makes Geobacter unique in comparison to other bacteria,” Bond said. “Because of the distances involved, we know that multiple proteins are involved, which adds to the complexity and why we can’t just clone a gene into E. coli to do this.”

Why is this important to the future of energy?
While traditional batteries and fuel cells often use expensive precious-metal catalysts (e.g. platinum) to strip electrons off the fuel source to generate electricity, microbial fuel cells use biological agents to do the heavy work.

A microbial fuel cell based on Geobacter would require only an inexpensive form of carbon (graphite) to help the bacteria transfer electrons onto the surface of electrodes. This novel design of microbial fuel cells could be scaled to efficiently convert waste organic matter (e.g. sewage, food waste) to electricity.

What to watch

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Thermoelectric materials based on 'nano cages' capture waste heat

October 09 2008 / by Garry Golden
Category: Environment   Year: 2018   Rating: 2

Thermoelectric materials can convert waste heat into electricity, or use electricity for cooling systems. Now European researchers have uncovered new insights into molecular ‘nano cages’ that might make this process of solid state energy conversion efficient.

Researchers at the University of Århus, Risø-DTU and the University of Copenhagen Niels Bohr Institute stand jointly behind new data, published in Nature Materials, that describes thermoelectric materials that could lead to breakthrough practical applications in improving engines, industrial machines, and also advance eco-friendly cooling systems for refrigeration and electronics.

Capturing waste heat – the ultimate in conservation
When we imagine ways to conserve energy and reduce waste, the real measurable gains for the planet have little to do with changing light bulbs. The area which holds the greatest potential is waste heat recovery from industrial processes, combustion engines and cooling systems. These are the most energy intensive and wasteful forms of energy conversion in the modern world.

Thermoelectric materials can be assembled into mechanical structures, which can transform the thermal difference to electrical energy or vice versa – electrical current to cooling.

Nano-cages or molecule trapping clathrate cages
The European researchers studied promising thermoelectric materials in the group of clathrates, which create crystals full of ‘nano-cages’.

“By placing a heavy atom in each nano-cage, we can reduce the crystals’ ability to conduct heat. Until now we thought that it was the heavy atoms random movements in the cages that were the cause of the poor thermal conductivity, but this has been shown to not be true”, explains Asger B. Abrahamsen, senior scientist at Risø-DTU.

“Our data shows that, it is rather the atoms’ shared pattern of movement that determines the properties of these thermoelectric materials. A discovery that will be significant for the design of new materials that utilize energy even better”, explains Kim Lefmann, associate professor at the Nano-Science Center, the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen.

News about thermoelectric materials is admittedly geeky when compared to stories about advances in solar and wind. But these systems are extremely important to transforming the dominant wasteful energy systems that already exist in our world. And this research adds to the growing list of recent fundamental breakthroughs that could help improve the world’s energy systems.

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