Scientists claim that everything what surrounds us was created as a result of earth-forming process lasting for over 4 billion years. In other words, our world is formed out of primeval lava and the cloud of gases floating above in the atmosphere.
Then gradually together with the cooling of the earth’s surface, chemical elements started to form more and more complex compounds. How is that possible? All the time, the phenomena on earth were fueled by the energy of the sun and the inherent force of the thermonuclear processes..
It turns out that these processes are reversible and also concerns the human activity. In the technology of waste recycling, using properly concentrated energy, we can split complex compounds into simple ones, giving the matter its primary form. What is more, in the process of waste decomposing, the energy may be released, or to be more precise, it can be transformed into another useful form.
- Synthesis gas (syngas), which in its composition and properties is similar to a raw natural gas;
- Vitrite, that is a kind of lava, similar to volcanic lava, which once it is cooled forms a rock, also similar to those that are left after the volcanic eruption;
- An alloy of metals molten out of various waste materials.
The first of this substances, syngas, is a result of decomposition of all organic matter contained in waste material. The gas obtained through this technology – after being purified from useless ingredients (soot, excess of steam, chlorine, nitrogen, sulphur and excess of carbon dioxide) – is composed almost only of carbohydrates, hydrogen, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. This enriching treatment enhances its calorific value which is on a par with this of a natural gas.
The gas is burnt in gas turbines, and only products of this stage are: energy, steam and carbon dioxide which are released to the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is, however, not coming from the fossil fuels, thus it does not contribute to the greenhouse effect.
The second substance is vitrite. As the name suggests (Lat. vitrum means glass) its main ingredient is glass, that is silicon dioxide molten to the glass-like state. There are also other salts and mineral compounds. That is why this substance, once cooled down, resembles amorphous volcanic rocks such as basalt or flintstone. Why „amorphous”? It is due to short cooldown time and low pressure that does not allow for crystallisation of this artificial rock in the way it happens with e.g. a granite.
Vitrite is a precious material. Indispensable in production of mineral wool for dampproofing, and foam boards of a constitution similar to common pumice. Vitrite can also be cooled down in forms, and pad stones made in this way can be used for building foundations of large bearing capacity. Eventually, it can be crumbled into aggregate strengthening concrete constructions, road bases, etc.
The process of obtaining vitrite is called vitrification. It is one of the most efficient methods of getting rid of high-melting waste, like salts of heay metals. In vitrite these salts gets bound within the rock structure, and become its insoluble and unleachable part. These substances can be compared to… pebbles, which contain various salts of heavy metals, yet as we know, when thrown to the water they do not solve, and their erosion may last for thousands of years.
The final product of the waste-to-energy process is an alloy of metals. There is no need to praise its various applications. The most crucial problem is separation of its ingredients. It is made in factories dedicated to this special task. Individual metals from the mixture can be obtained in a several ways. The cheapest is gravitational method making use of various specific weight of metals. Molten mixture (alloy) is sent to centrifuge and there each fraction is separated. More complex method is electrochemical method. An alloy is solved in a mixture of acids, and the solution of salts undergoes an electrolysis. It is commonly known process, e.g. in the production of pure copper.
It is not without reason that the provider of the technology based on plasma gasification – AlterNRG – depicts it as „the method of waste recycling that does not produce secondary waste, which could not be re-used”. In the plant producing electric energy from plasma waste recycling, indeed, no trace is left of the recycled rubbish. What is more, the materials made of them can be entirely used in other branches of industry. However, it should be emphasized that this technology is the first method of generating energy that does not pollute the environment (quite the contrary – cleanse the environment). Furthermore, its functioning does not depend on the time of day, season nor weather – as it is the case in photovoltaic and wind technologies.