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Giant Microwave Turns Plastic Back to Oil 555

Posted by samzenpus
from the but-how-is-it-on-popcorn dept.
An anonymous reader writes "From the newscientist article: "Key to GRC's process is a machine that uses 1200 different frequencies within the microwave range, which act on specific hydrocarbon materials. As the material is zapped at the appropriate wavelength, part of the hydrocarbons that make up the plastic and rubber in the material are broken down into diesel oil and combustible gas.""
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Giant Microwave Turns Plastic Back to Oil

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  • Hooray! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Spudtrooper (1073512) on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @11:59PM (#19671781)
    Finally, a use for all those AOL CDs!
    • I have truly scary visions of Karen Black running on AOL software.
    • Re:Hooray! (Score:5, Funny)

      by Spy der Mann (805235) <spydermann.slash ... Hl.com minus cat> on Thursday June 28, 2007 @12:29AM (#19672025) Homepage Journal
      Finally, a use for all those AOL CDs!

      ... and the term "CD burning" acquires a completely new meaning.
    • Re:Hooray! (Score:4, Informative)

      by xaxa (988988) on Thursday June 28, 2007 @02:25AM (#19672595)
      You can already recycle CDs [reuze.co.uk] (and many other media).
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by UnknowingFool (672806)
        Yes you can recycle CDs into components like aluminum and polycarbonate; however, polycarbonate is a plastic. Unless you have a use for polycarbonate (like other CDs), it's use is limited. This method allows you to take the process into more basic components like fuel which has more general usage.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by CastrTroy (595695)
          Depends on your definition of general. Fuel gets used for basically 1 thing. To make cars and other machines with internal combustion engines move. Plastics are used in the construction of just about everything. So, if you make fuel, you can sell it to people who need fuel. If you make plastic, you can sell it to people who need just about anything.
          • Re:Hooray! (Score:5, Insightful)

            by UnknowingFool (672806) on Thursday June 28, 2007 @08:52AM (#19674613)

            If you make plastic, you can sell it to people who need just about anything

            No, the reason why plastics are not very recyclable is that you cannot substitute one plastic for another. The previous method recycles polycarbonate from CDs only into polycarbonate. Polycarbonate cannot be used instead of polyethylene, polypropylene, polyvinyl chloride, etc. These other plastics have far more uses. So turning into fuel is a more general use to me.

        • Re:Hooray! (Score:4, Interesting)

          by geobeck (924637) on Thursday June 28, 2007 @10:47AM (#19675987) Homepage

          The problem with current plastic recycling is that you reduce the length of the polymer molecules each time you recycle, reducing the quality of the plastic. So you can't turn PET bottles into PET bottles indefinitely; you have to turn them into lower-quality plastic items such as plastic speed bumps. After a couple of cycles, the plastic ends up in a landfill.

          And that only applies to thermoplastics (which can be melted). Thermosets, which cannot be melted, are much more difficult to recycle, and are "downcycled" much farther in quality.

          The beauty of the "giant microwave" process is that it turns plastic recycling into a truly cyclic process, instead of a delayed linear process. If you transform plastic back into its raw material, you can recycle it into plastic of equal or greater quality (upcycling). You keep it out of the landfill for much longer (not accounting for people who don't bother to recycle).

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by UnknowingFool (672806)
            Exactly. In a way, plastics recycling is like paper recycling. You generally cannot turn recycled paper into normal paper stock for general office use. Recycled paper is used for things like packaging. The two main reasons are degradation as you mentioned and additives like inks. Every recycle of paper and plastics makes them for general use. In paper the paper fibers get degraded like polymer chains in plastic get shorter. Also it is very difficult to separate the additives like inks with out a heav
    • Re:Hooray! (Score:5, Funny)

      by mynickwastaken (690966) on Thursday June 28, 2007 @03:08AM (#19672769)
      It is not working. I put a AOL CD in my microwave owen and it turned directly into fire.
  • by afidel (530433) on Thursday June 28, 2007 @12:00AM (#19671785)
    That the mines of the next century will be our garbage mountains. It will be the place with the highest density of easily obtainable materials.
    • by Endymion (12816)
      Ooo... mindwarp [imdb.com] was correct, then!
    • I called it! (Score:4, Informative)

      by Old Man Kensey (5209) on Thursday June 28, 2007 @12:19AM (#19671949) Homepage
      Almost two years ago [slashdot.org].
    • by timmarhy (659436) on Thursday June 28, 2007 @12:21AM (#19671965)
      same here. metals, oil, gas... rubbish piles have all of them in 100x the abundance that natural deposits do. whats lacking is methods to get them, no doubt some clever cookies will figure that out once the price is right.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by elrous0 (869638) *

        once the price is right.

        Revolutionary new microwave technology produces uses 10 megawatts of energy to produce enough oil to provide 1 megawatt of electricity! What a bargain!!

    • by Kadin2048 (468275) * <.slashdot.kadin. .at. .xoxy.net.> on Thursday June 28, 2007 @01:18AM (#19672297) Homepage Journal
      The only problem is that they also have a very high density of thoroughly toxic materials, stuff that you really don't want disturbed if you can avoid it.

      Unfortunately, I could easily see it being economically infeasible to mine garbage dumps, because the cost of environmental remediation would be worse than just leaving the resources there, entombed with all the hazardous stuff.

      Really, if we had a slightly longer planning horizon than we seem to have, we'd at least be sorting our garbage before burying it, instead of piling it all together. Just pulling out all the metal and putting it in one hole, with the plastic and organics in another, or burying similar types of appliances together, would make the landfills that much more attractive to mine later on.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by borizz (1023175)
        In the Netherlands, you are asked to do just that.

        We have separate containers (and pick-up services) for normal trash, green trash (anything bio-degradable), chemical trash (paint, batteries and stuff) and paper.

        Instead of 1 large trashcan, we have 4 smaller ones.
        • True, but how is it enforced? Perhaps in the Netherlands, people can be trusted to just do it, but I'm not sure that would work here.

          In fact, I'm pretty sure that in my municipality, it's technically illegal to throw out anything that's toxic into the regular trash, but there's no enforcement mechanism, and given a choice between taking that old NiCd phone battery or fluorescent light tube to the recycling center, and just putting it in the trash ... well, you tell me which one people are going to do? (Hint, it's the one that's less work.) Hell, I know people who don't even recycle metals, because it's too much work to sort stuff into the bin that they're already given. Easier just to chuck it all in one bin and not think about it. And that's only two cans, one for all mixed recyclables and one for 'everything else.'

          I've heard anecdotally that in Japan, there are people who basically go through trash at transfer stations, and will hunt down (based on personally identifying information in the trash) those folks who don't sort their recyclables out and reprimand/embarrass them -- short of something vaguely creepy like that (and in the U.S., social ostracism and humiliation aren't going to work as punishments), I'm not sure any consumer-sorting programs are going to work.

          Without draconian enforcement, I think the sorting has to be -- or at least has to be backed up by sorting -- done at the transfer station or dump.

          From a different perspective, sorting garbage based on predetermined criteria seems to be like something that, once you get over the initial investment in the system that does it, is probably better done by one giant machine that sorts the garbage for 100,000 people, than each of those 100,000 people having to take a few minutes a day to think about it. From a purely economic perspective, the opportunity cost of everyone's time probably justifies an automatic sorter, and when you factor in the recovered value from the recyclables [1] and the possible "dump mining" aspects that it creates later, I'd think it would be a good investment.

          [1] The value of the metal and Type 1 plastic, anyway; the higher-number plastics don't seem to be worth recycling right now, at least based on what I've read.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by timmarhy (659436)
            what are you talking about? normal mining is plenty toxic as it is. dig a deep hole looking for ore and your assured of running into fiberous material (asbestso) at the very least.

            hell yellow cake is found 180m at times

          • by mastershake_phd (1050150) on Thursday June 28, 2007 @02:21AM (#19672567) Homepage
            A local town started limiting each household to 2 trashbags per week. If you needed more than that you have to buy special green trash bags for $1.50 each. The result? Trash volume is down, and recycling is up 40%. Just save up before you clean out your basement...
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by thesandtiger (819476)
              The problem with these sorts of things is that the people who really contribute to the problem will just look at the fee as a way of alleviating their guilt.

              True story:

              A day-care center was having a real problem with parents arriving late (2-3 hours after they were supposed to) to pick up their kids. So someone at the day-care center had the bright idea of charging $10 per incident if a parent was more than 30 minutes late. Guess what happened? MORE parents showed up late and paid the $10! They felt like th
          • by zippthorne (748122) on Thursday June 28, 2007 @03:18AM (#19672833) Journal
            Just need to have non-stupid options. Every four or five months, I check with my state's waste management website for how to handle the tricky stuff (like fluorescent tubes and button batteries), mostly because that's about how often I lose a CFL. Their answer is that I must drive halfway across the state (it's a small state, but the way the roads are, half-way across might as well be all the way across). Also, I have to make a special appointment for the privilege.

            I might consider doing this when my CRT monitor finally fails, but somehow I doubt that burning 12 gallons of gasoline for a single compact bulb is less harmful to the environment than tossing it in with the regular trash. And if it's not, then there's no point in my continuing to use them, as the 12 gallons of gasoline puts the lifetime cost well over that which regular light bulbs would've been over the same time period. They fail to break often enough that just accumulating a bunch of spent CFLs is really an option. It'd take me ten years to fill a small box with 'em, and frankly, I don't want to store hazardous waste for that long.

            The items aren't exactly very large or numerous. I fail to see why they can't just put one or more small bins at the transfer station for them. How much space would a whole town's worth of expired button batteries need to take, anyway?
          • I've said for years it would be a great job for prisoners to do the sorting. Have the household garbage run down a conveyor belt and have them pick out the useful bits.
      • Look at super markets, lots and lots of items in small tiny packages. Can I bring my own 4 gallon container and fill it up with shower gel? NO.
        Why not? Why cannot items be prices per volume, not per packet.

        Or if super markets provided recycling bins so you can bring back old containers/wrapping and pay the consumer back with a store credit that will
        reduce garbage dumps massively. Id like to see a 30cent discount on a shampoo bottle if I bring back the old one. At least this 'discount' system bypasses
        taxes s
        • Can I bring my own 4 gallon container and fill it up with shower gel? NO.

          Just go to "Sams Club" or Costco. You can buy a 4 gallon container of shower gel.

  • but... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by PhrostyMcByte (589271) <phrosty@gmail.com> on Thursday June 28, 2007 @12:02AM (#19671807) Homepage
    no mention on how much energy it takes to run the thing, or how much energy it puts out. it's not of much use if it costs a fraction to just bury the old plastic and make new stuff from scratch.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by kanani (882288)
      according to TFA, it makes enough fuel from the autofluff (ground up tire refuse) to run the machine
    • Re:but... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Iron Sun (227218) on Thursday June 28, 2007 @12:08AM (#19671863)
      The article doesn't give exact figures, but it does say:

      GRC says its Hawk-10 can extract enough oil and gas from the left-over fluff to run the Hawk-10 itself and a number of other machines used by Gershow.

      That addresses the energy issue, but still leaves open the question of how much it costs to maintain the equipment. You'd have to think they've got some sort of business model worked out if they've progressed to the point of selling to customers.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by slughead (592713)
        You'd have to think they've got some sort of business model worked out if they've progressed to the point of selling to customers.

        Or it's a dead end that has no commercial value and will probably only be used in research.

        That'd be my guess; the oil used to make plastic isn't that expensive... yet.
        • Re:but... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by jcr (53032) <jcr@[ ].com ['mac' in gap]> on Thursday June 28, 2007 @12:54AM (#19672183) Journal
          If all it does is recylce plastics, that's a commercial value right there. Landfill space is getting scarce in a lot of cities.

          -jcr
          • Re:but... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Rei (128717) on Thursday June 28, 2007 @01:48AM (#19672421) Homepage
            Not only reducing landfill; this could be huge in electronics recycling. Much of that recycling goes on (officially illegally) in China. It goes like this: they take all parts that have copper in them and throw them in a big heap all day. At night, they douse the huge heap in fuel and light it; the plastics burn all night, spewing huge amounts of toxins across the landscape. In the morning, they collect the blackened ball of copper for sale and brush aside the ash.

            Compare that to this, where, according to the article, it produces enough oil to run itself plus "other" machinery. Coated wire goes in, stripped wire comes out.

            One big issue comes up for me: the contents of that oil. In such a recycling process, the oil itself could simply be gelled and discarded, with the energy to run the machine coming from cleaner sources; the key issue is that you're not doing burns of toxic plastics. So it's still useful. For wider use, however, one would want the oil to be clean enough to use. What happens with chlorinated plastics, like PVC? Where does the chlorine end up? What about fluorinated plastics? And so on -- where do all of these things end up?
        • Re:but... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Iron Sun (227218) on Thursday June 28, 2007 @01:08AM (#19672243)
          It obviously isn't completely unviable, as they have their first customer lined up. It must make economic sense to them.

          It also doesn't require that the oil produced be comparable in price to the imported stuff, as there is additional value added in the form of reduced processing of their auto waste. If the machine creates real savings in that area then the fact that it powers itself is a nice secondary feature.

          A landfill reducing device that powers itself with a net energy surplus doesn't sound like it has no commercial value.
    • Re:but... (Score:4, Funny)

      by protolith (619345) on Thursday June 28, 2007 @12:18AM (#19671939)
      And no mention of the really cool lightning created when you leave a metal fork in the plastic.

    • The short of it is that you need to do is put a lot of electrical energy into water and you get hydrogen. Electricity can't run a car because you can't just have an extension cord dragging out the back. Hydrogen is a portable form of energy that a car can run on. The fact that it takes more energy to produce than gasoline is irrelevant.
    • Re:but... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ricree (969643) on Thursday June 28, 2007 @12:30AM (#19672031)

      no mention on how much energy it takes to run the thing, or how much energy it puts out. it's not of much use if it costs a fraction to just bury the old plastic and make new stuff from scratch.
      They claim that it is capable of pulling out enough fuel to have a surplus, but even if it isn't it could still be viable as a means to recycle plastics. I don't know how economically viable that would be now, but the raw materials for plastic are likely to rise, while the price of these machines will likely fall. Even if it is not viable now, who is to say it will never be. All in all, it sounds plausible.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by thedohman (932417)
      Check out the company's website: http://www.globalresourcecorp.com/Tire%20Recycling .html [globalresourcecorp.com]

      ENERGY RECOVERY RATES
      20 POUND CAR TIRE BY PRODUCT BREAKDOWN:
      OIL (# 4) - 1.2 GALLONS 8.5 POUNDS
      GAS - 50 CF - 3000 BTUS 2.0 POUNDS
      STEEL 2.0 POUNDS
      CARBON BLACK 7.5 POUNDS

      No mention of how much goes into removing that stuff though.
      The tech can also convert the oil in shale and tar sands into natural gas and some other gases that can converted into oil... at least that's what they say. No word on how to purchase said device.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by kestasjk (933987)

      no mention on how much energy it takes to run the thing, or how much energy it puts out. it's not of much use if it costs a fraction to just bury the old plastic and make new stuff from scratch.
      It might be useful in a future world powered by fusion or breeder reactors where we have plenty of energy but no oil.
  • People... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by thegrassyknowl (762218) on Thursday June 28, 2007 @12:03AM (#19671809)
    People are made of hydrocarbons... kind of!

    Will this be the new trendy form of cremation?
  • by Bin_jammin (684517) <Binjammin@gmail.com> on Thursday June 28, 2007 @12:03AM (#19671811)
    when I stop at the gas station/convenience store, I'll be able to buy a burrito that's 1/2 frozen coming out of the microwave, and fuel 1/2 frozen coming out of the microwave. How far we've come!
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by afidel (530433)
      Well, then you get all the fuel back since the burrito is already going to produce a ton of methane =)
  • by GammaKitsune (826576) on Thursday June 28, 2007 @12:03AM (#19671815)
    I've gotten my microwave at home to break my food back down into component carbons. Or at least something pretty similar to coal.
  • What I gather is that they use multiple magnetrons or microwave circuits to generate frequencies that will resonate with all the common bonds in hydrocarbons, just as 2.4Ghz is the resonant frequency of the protons in a water molecule swinging back and forth. However, they also claim (for example) that it can dissolve the insulation off a piece of copper wire. But it's still the same principle as a microwave oven, so I ask: how can they put a conductor into the chamber and not have it immediately burn up due to microwave absorbtion? Cut it up into teeny bits?
  • But it's recycling, we're not allowed to ask if it's worth it, because if we did [williams.edu] we might not bother to recycle anything.
    • by BigBuckHunter (722855) on Thursday June 28, 2007 @06:30AM (#19673779)
      That had to be the worst anti-recycling link I've ever read. Heck, Penn and Teller even did a better job. Many Items are profitable to recycle, hence the existence of private scrap yards. Some consumer waste 'is' profitable, but since the US local governments decide to do curbside pickup, it no longer saves energy. They solved this problem in Vienna by having neighborhood bins. The trucks only come when the bin is full. A simple idea like that turned glass and metal (including aluminum) profitable. Granted, the profit goes to subsidize the plastic recycling, which needs local compactors to break even.

      Corporate recycling (bottles from bars that go back to the bottler, unsold newspaper pickup, etc, are all private and profitable.

      In conclusion, recycling consumer waste 'can' be profitable, and the low hanging fruit already is profitable. It's just that our governing bodys (that control recycling) are too dumb and wasteful to figure it out.

      BBH
  • I knew it! (Score:5, Funny)

    by weinrich (414267) on Thursday June 28, 2007 @12:13AM (#19671897)

    "Take a piece of copper wiring," says Meddick. "It is encased in plastic - a kind of hydrocarbon material. [stick it in our microwave] and we release all the hydrocarbons, which strips the casing off the wire."
    I knew the microwave manufacturer's were lying to us all these years! They kept telling us not to put metal in our microwaves, and now I know why: they just wanted to keep this money-making technology to themselves. You Bastards!
    • Re:I knew it! (Score:4, Informative)

      by ajs318 (655362) <sd_resp2NO@SPAMearthshod.co.uk> on Thursday June 28, 2007 @08:21AM (#19674355)
      They tell you not to put metal in it because you probably don't know how to do so safely and so will end up doing yourself, or your oven, a mischief. They think that if you don't do it at all, you can't possibly do it wrong. If you want to try, remember microwaves are radio waves (they're about 12cm. IMMSMC) and obey all the usual laws of radio waves. Read some advanced physics textbooks and you'll learn how to put metal objects in a microwave oven without getting the usual light show.

      To summarise the physics: metals, being good conductors, tend to get a current induced in them; so does water, but, not being a perfect conductor, it also gets a potential difference across it and the old "volts * amps = watts" thing kicks in. Hence why food gets hot in the microwave, and why filament light bulbs glow in the microwave. Air is an even worse conductor, and the potential difference across the air between a piece of electrically-charged metal and the earthed oven wall might well be significant. (And no, disconnecting the earth in the plug won't help. You'll just make the oven body live. Damn those Continentals with their lovely Schuko plugs that have no fuse and will fit into a non-earthed socket with nary word of a warning. At least the worst thing that can happen in this country is that you'll plant a bare foot on a 13-amp plug in the dark. Actually, make that a socked foot; lovely fibre fragments driven deep into the wound by the sharp-edged brass pins). Once you get a PD greater than about 3MV/m (or 3kV/mm, whichever comes first) air tends to make like a metal-oxide varistor and suddenly go from being a terrible conductor to being a really good conductor. Hence the fireworks.
  • by wizardforce (1005805) on Thursday June 28, 2007 @12:13AM (#19671907) Journal
    The process they are talking about sounds a lot like petroleum cracking, both use catalysts to break larger hydrocarbons/polymers into smaller pieces but the petroleum cracking takes place upwards of 1000 degrees so if it is already being used, why not this too? Currently to produces plastics we use crack petroleum into ethylene, propylene etc. and to produces certain precursors we use superacids, zeolites and super lewis acids which are really not very environmentally friendly. whatever use they can get out of the process without needing to crack more petrol is a good thing at least on paper.
  • Irony (Score:5, Funny)

    by vertigoCiel (1070374) on Thursday June 28, 2007 @12:17AM (#19671937)
    Powering the next generation with the accumulated shit of the previous one. Brilliant.
  • Good! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Robber Baron (112304) on Thursday June 28, 2007 @12:21AM (#19671963) Homepage
    Good! they can start by zapping all that annoying hard plastic bubble packaging that every bleeding thing seems to come in now and is harder then hell to open without damaging the contents! What frigging idiot came up with that idea?!? If there isn't a hell, they should make one, and put idiots like that in it! I know...a prison...we'll strip them naked and make sure their cells are free of anything with sharp or pointed edges, and all their meals, toilet paper, soap etc will come wrapped in their diabolical inventions!
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      There was a guy who invented a tool just to open this style of packaging. Unfortunately the manufacturer shipped them in those hard plastic packets....
  • by Anne_Nonymous (313852) on Thursday June 28, 2007 @12:27AM (#19672009) Homepage Journal
    >> plastic... broken down into... combustible gas

    Try feeding your dog a (small) Lego. It has the same effect. For almost a week.
  • by uncreativ (793402) on Thursday June 28, 2007 @12:43AM (#19672121)
    wonder if it could be used to convert coal to a liquid hydrocarbon--would make the US the new saudi arabia for oil considering our huge coal deposits.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by chgros (690878)
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by evilviper (135110)

      would make the US the new saudi arabia for oil considering our huge coal deposits.

      No it wouldn't.

      The US used-to produce the vast majority of the world's oil. It was the largest exporting nation by far, but production has slowed and many of the oil deposits have been exhausted. The US has always been, and still is, one of the top 3 oil producing nations.

      The reason the US isn't the old and "new Saudi Arabia for oil" isn't because of lack of oil, but because the US uses so much that despite the huge producti

  • by nanosquid (1074949) on Thursday June 28, 2007 @01:55AM (#19672443)
    I'm sure it helps to stick the stuff into a blender [willitblend.com] first.
  • by Junior J. Junior III (192702) on Thursday June 28, 2007 @02:16AM (#19672543) Homepage
    So, just like, a wave, right?
  • by Anrego (830717) on Thursday June 28, 2007 @02:29AM (#19672611)
    Great.. and just when we were starting to look at alternative fuel
  • by steveoc (2661) on Thursday June 28, 2007 @02:47AM (#19672679)
    Not surprised by this at all.

    There are countless stories of ancient technology where enlightened beings create things or destroy them by utilising special harmonic vibrations.

    We have pyramids and whole cities being constructed in the remote jungle covered mountains of Peru by a small number of 'dwarfs' who move massive blocks of granite around using a nothing but a 'chiming rod'. (Sound being a vibration in teh audible spectra).

    We have the armies of King David knocking down the walls of Jericho by blowing specific notes on the sacred horn of destruction. (Sound again being a vibration in teh audible spectra).

    We have ancient Indians flying around in Vimyana airships and laying waste to massed armies with blasts of specially coded light waves. (Light being a vibration in teh visible spectra).

    From ancient Inuit culture, we have heroes who can 'hummm' inaudible songs to summon a great whale from beneath the ice caps of the frozen north, and command the whale to do their bidding. (Subtonal vibrations in teh sensory spectra)

    We have the ancient Malinese who claim to have built a city UNDER THE OCEAN in a single day, by banging two large fish together. (A vibration in teh olafactory spectra perhaps ?)

    And the ancient Australian aboriginies, where the rainbow serpent created the mountains and the rivers and then literally sang day and night and linear time into existence. (A vibration in teh temporal spectra ?).

    So why should we be surprised that vibrations in teh Microwave spectra hold the power to perform the modern alchemical trick of turning old barbie dolls and art-deco floor coverings into diesel fuel ?

    Thats hardly progress - I would be impressed if they came up with a giant titanium chiming wand that could remotely construct a magnificent city on the Moon in a couple of hours, or a 100 square mile flawless pyramid of solid ruby on the surface of Mars over the space of a long weekend ...
  • by jsiren (886858) on Thursday June 28, 2007 @04:33AM (#19673193) Homepage
    TFA quotes somewhat odd numbers:

    (...) running 9.1 kilograms of ground-up tyres through the Hawk-10 produces 4.54 litres of diesel oil, 1.42 cubic metres of combustible gas, 1 kg of steel and 3.40 kg of carbon black (...)
    WTF? Why 9.1 kg? Is this a multiple of a non-metric unit converted to metric? Or the weight of a standard car's tires? The weight of one tire? Should I know this?

    These numbers are attributed to Jerry Meddick, director of business development at Global Resource Corporation. I'd guess mr. Meddick originally said to the reporter "running 20 pounds of ground-up tyres ... produces 1.2 gallons of diesel oil, 50 cubic feet of combustible gas, 2.2 lb of steel, and 7.5 lb of carbon black", using units he's familiar with.

    Okay, a publication calling itself scientific is not going to publish figures in non-SI units. I appreciate the effort of conversion, but it's not much better to publish figures in "base 0.454", as it were. Reading in base 10, the above quote best represents (in a roundabout way) the steel yield of the machine: to get 1 kg of steel, put in 9.1 kg of ground-up tyres.

    What if you want to express the total yield per unit of ground-up tyres? Use a unit amount or a power of 10 amount of tyres and calculate the rest from that:
    For every 10 kilograms of ground-up tyres, the Hawk-10 produces 5 litres of diesel oil, 1.6 cubic metres of combustible gas, 1.1 kg of steel, and 3.7 kg of carbon black.

    This is much easier to comprehend: if a ton (1000 kg) of ground-up tyres were delivered to a Hawk-10, it would produce approximately 500 litres of diesel oil, enough to run my 1999 Ford Focus on my 100 km per day commute 5 days a week for 20 weeks.

    Now, where's that microwawe...?

  • Beverly (Score:4, Funny)

    by Joebert (946227) on Thursday June 28, 2007 @07:38AM (#19674113) Homepage
    Let me tell ya little story bout a man named Fred,
    Jersey Engineer barely has time to eat bread,
    Then one day he was cookin up some food,
    after a 20 minute call it was a bubblin crude.
  • My question (Score:5, Funny)

    by LittleGuy (267282) on Thursday June 28, 2007 @07:49AM (#19674179)
    How much microwave power do you need to reconstitute oil back into dinosaurs?
  • by foniksonik (573572) on Thursday June 28, 2007 @10:22AM (#19675657) Homepage Journal
    What's neat about this is that it takes waste products that would end up in a land fill and converts them to a usable form again... with a surplus over the amount of energy needed to do so. Not much, certainly not enough to supplant alternative fuel sources... but enough to drive the conversion process and power a few other machines nearby.

    This will be great for factories all around and farms and other types of businesses that end up with a lot of waste material. Maybe we can make those 75% self-sustaining... which means they won't be depleting more raw materials as quickly. This is a good thing.

    Even if the only use is for our Municipal trash companies to run their fleet of vehicles off of the trash they collect... we've won a huge gain. Maybe trucking companies could do the same... converting their used tires to fuel every month (they go through a lot of tires).

    This is equivalent to farms using their biomass to convert to biodiesel or ethanol for use in their farm equipment. It's not a commercial enterprise but it reduces waste and improves their efficiency which means they can pass the savings on to the rest of us (or stop needing subsidies from tax dollars).

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