Getting rid of the world’s waste is a huge problem, as mankind is increasingly producing garbage that lasts even for hundreds of years. Turning waste into energy serves a dual purpose – by reducing landfills and producing non-fossil fuel-based energy.
With the fast-growing climate crisis, such technologies are becoming increasingly critical, especially for the treatment of non-biodegradable wastes such as plastics, which cannot be decomposed or dissolved by natural agents and has a high energy content.
Researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) in Beersheba researchers have now developed a technology to turn carbon-containing waste into gas using supercritical water. The Laboratory for Clean Combustion under the direction of Dr. Efim Korytnyi spent six years developing the technological scheme of the novel gasification process. The researchers argue that the unique properties of supercritical water and technological innovation will outperform existing technologies both in the quality of gas produced and in overall energy effectiveness. A provisional patent application has been submitted.
Supercritical water – water heated to more than 374 degrees Celsius and pressurized to more than 219 atmospheres – has unique chemical properties. It actively decomposes organic matter and very weakly dissolves inorganic substances. Since most waste contains both organic and inorganic substances, treatment brings about the conversion of the organic material into a gas and the solid inorganic part for further use or interring in landfills.
“The organic components are transformed into hydrogen, methane and carbon dioxide,” explained Korytnyi. Hydrogen and methane are both potential fuel sources and feedstocks for the chemical industry. Hydrogen as a replacement for gasoline being of particular interest to the automobile industry, where scientists are investigating hydrogen fuel cells. Hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles produce zero-emission, and the fuel cell coupled with an electric motor is more than twice as efficient as an internal combustion engine running on gasoline.
“Gasification is also a potential solution for treating hazardous waste and rendering it safe,” Korytnyi concluded. The researchers are seeking investors to take their technology to the next level.
The research was supported by three of Israel’s ministries: the Ministry of National Infrastructures, Energy and Water Resources, the Ministry of Environmental Protection and the Ministry of Economy and Industry.