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ENSEK Advent Calendar Day Seventeen - Cold Plasma

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Stephen Wright, ENSEK | Business Development Manager

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Cold Plasma Pyrolysis - Renewable plastic energy

Snappy title but what is Cold Plasma Pyrolysis and could it be the answer to a major problem - plastics?

Currently plastics can be turned into fuel by burning them at very high temperatures (pyrolysis) to create large amounts of gas to create more heat or to turn turbines to generate electricity.

Cold Plasma Pyrolysis makes it possible to convert waste plastics into hydrogen, methane and ethylene. Pyrolysis is the process of thermal decomposition of organic materials; the optimum environment is between 400-650°C with limited oxygen, adding Cold Plasma breaks chemical bonds to initiate and excite reactions allowing for the extraction of these materials before they are 'burnt'. Both hydrogen and methane can be used as clean fuels, since they only produce minimal amounts of harmful compounds such as non-burnt hydrocarbons and carbon dioxide. Ethylene is also the most abundant foundation for the majority of plastics and this could be recycled back into new plastic manufacturing.

Currently 31% of plastics end up in landfill and will take a millennia to decompose and in the process release harmful chemicals into our land and soil so is the plastic-to-fuel sector an answer to the problem? Currently just burning the plastics means that we cannot recover most of the materials used, however Cold Plasma Pyrolysis can making plastics 'circular' (recyclable) benefiting our ecosystem and creating a new (almost renewable) energy source in the process.

Innovation is changing the energy sector and the way we think about energy as consumers, read more about the innovations in energy here.