The process that lights up big-screen plasma TV displays is getting a new life in producing ultra-clean fuels, according to a report here today at the 239th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS). It described a small, low-tech, inexpensive device called a GlidArc reactor that uses electrically-charged clouds of gas called "plasmas" to produce in three steps super-clean fuels from waste materials. One is a diesel fuel that releases 10 times less air pollution than its notoriously sooty, smelly conventional counterpart.
Czernichowski noted that the reactors, about the size of a refrigerator, are custom designed to clean dirty gases produced by a low-tech gasification of locally available wastes, biomass, or other resources to produce clean mix of carbon monoxide and hydrogen gas to synthesize biofuels. Corn farming regions, for instance, could use corn stover (leaves and stalks left in the field after harvest) as the raw material. In urban areas, waste cooking oil from restaurants could be the raw material. In regions that produce biodiesel fuel, glycerol could be converted into clean fuels. Czernichowski pointed out production of biofuels results in huge amounts of glycerol byproduct â€" 200 pounds for every 2,000 pounds of biodiesel. The glycerol is expensive to refine to the high purity needed for commercial use. GlidArc reactors could transform glycerol into a clean synthesis gas (the carbon monoxide and hydrogen) for production of fuels, he said.