By Franklin L. Foster, Ph.D.
Plasma gasification is an exciting emerging technology based on basic laws of physics and chemistry. "Plasma" refers to what is sometimes called "the fourth state of matter" - an ionized gas where the atoms of the gas have lost one or more electrons and has become electrically charged. Lightning is a common example of plasma in nature. To emulate this, plasma torches have been developed to pass an electrical discharge through a gas. This creates temperatures nearly as hot as the sun.
The next step was to enclose these torches in a furnace type vessel where the high temperatures can literally turn into gas a wide range of feedstock material. See diagrams below (courtesy Alter NRG Corp.)
As can be noted in the above diagram, gasification produces Syngas which has a wide of possible applications and end products.
There are four main areas where this technology can be applied:
In short, this is an exciting, emerging area which promises to help solve both our need for more efficient energy sources, and to reduce environmental impacts - simultaneously.