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Plasma process to bring new spark to waste treatment

May 07, 1996 Share This!

RICHLAND, Wash. – A new waste conversion technology for treating solid wastes could provide major economic and environmental benefits. The technology soon will be available commercially through a start-up company, Integrated Environmental Technologies, which has established a technology research center in Richland, Wash.

The new technology, known as the controlled plasma glassification process, differs significantly from any plasma technology presently on the market. The process was developed jointly by a Pacific Northwest National Laboratory researcher and two independent consultants.

The CPG process uses electrically conductive gas, or plasma, to vitrify or heat waste to the point that it becomes molten. The resulting material -- a solid glass or metal material -- prevents any contaminants from leaching into the environment.

This technology is well suited to tackle most solid waste streams including hazardous, medical, radioactive, mixed industrial and municipal solid waste. The CPG reliably can process higher volumes of waste in a relatively small unit while reducing environmental impacts. The CPG process is operated in a manner to virtually eliminate the hazardous emissions associated with technologies such as incineration.

Because all solid byproducts of waste processing are converted to a glass-like product or a usable metal, the CPG process does not have a secondary disposal problem often associated with ash from incineration and other thermal technologies. In fact, as with other vitrification techniques, the glass byproduct is very durable and possibly could be recycled for other uses, such as construction materials.

Energy efficiency also leads to a substantially lower cost operation, as well. The CPG process utilizes a special energy recovery process to efficiently recover energy from the treated waste material.

The new technology was developed by Pacific Northwest researcher Jeffrey Surma, Daniel Cohn, a private consultant and research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and electrical engineer Charles Titus, a private consultant who has been granted more than 40 patents. Surma is participating in the Pacific Northwest Entrepreneurial Program which grants staff members leaves of absence and other types of support to start new businesses in an effort to diversify the local economy.

Further technology development will be conducted in Richland, Wash., at IET's research and development facility. Under the terms of a license agreement, Battelle will provide technical support and services. IET has designed a commercial prototype which will be fabricated and tested in Richland. The prototype, which is expected to be operational in the spring of 1997, will be used to demonstrate the new technology at a scale that will be convincing to potential users. "We'll be able to demonstrate most solid wastes at a rate of two to 10 tons per day," said Surma, IET vice president. "We'll demonstrate the technology using the wastes of potential customers or surrogate wastes simulating that of individual customers."

Company president and investor Larry Dinkin believes this technology will revolutionize the way solid waste is dealt with in the United States and abroad. Dinkin has had extensive experience in starting new companies and has been recognized as the 1990 "Long Island Entrepreneur of the Year" by Inc. Magazine.

Dinkin is attracting prominent individuals from high technology businesses to sit on IET's board of directors. One board member, Herman Fialkov, has been involved in many such start-up companies and was one of the founding investors in Intel and Teledyne.

Presently, IET is exploring alliances and partnerships with companies in the waste treatment field to meet needs of industry, the Department of Energy, the Department of Defense and municipalities.

Tags: Energy, Environment, Energy Efficiency, Emissions

Interdisciplinary teams at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory address many of America's most pressing issues in energy, the environment and national security through advances in basic and applied science. Founded in 1965, PNNL employs 4,300 staff and has an annual budget of more than $1 billion. It is managed by Battelle for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science. As the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, the Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information on PNNL, visit the PNNL News Center, or follow PNNL on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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