Title: Plasma arc thermal destruction applications: technology transfer opportunities

Authors: Ed Smith, Hany Zaghloul, Ravi K. Jain

Addresses: Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (CERL), Champaign, IL 61826-9005, USA. Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (CERL), Champaign, IL 61826-9005, USA. School of Engineering, University of the Pacific, Stockton, CA 95211, USA

Abstract: Plasma Arc Technology (PAT), an emerging environmental thermal treatment process, has been used to safely and efficiently meet the waste disposal needs of pyrotechnic smoke assemblies, thermal batteries, proximity fuses, contaminated soil and Asbestos Containing Material (ACM). Since 1989, the US Army Construction Engineering Research Laboratories (USACERL) have been active participants in the research and development towards establishing PAT as an efficient, economical and safe hazardous waste immobilisation tool. A plasma torch capable of generating high temperatures makes this technology a viable and powerful tool for the thermal destruction of ACMs into an innocuous ceramic material no longer requiring disposal as a hazardous waste. When pure asbestos is subjected to temperatures above 1000°C, the asbestos fibres melt and subsequently solidify into a nonhazardous, chemically inert, solid material. The resulting processed, rock-like substance meets all Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) criteria as a nonhazardous material and has value as gravel or aggregate material. In addition, research indicates that PAT is a powerful technology for the conversion of unique military hazardous waste contaminated items into inert, vitrified slag. Advantages of plasma arc technology include: the availability of high temperatures; flexibility to operate in either reducing or oxidising environments; low gas requirements, thus low effluent gas volumes; substantial waste volume reduction; the ability to treat a large variety of waste streams; and a saleable by-product. This paper will provide an overview of plasma arc technology and discuss the military|s hazardous waste disposal needs.

Keywords: plasma arc; vitrification; thermal destruction; hazardous waste; innovative treatment.

DOI: 10.1504/IJTTC.2002.001794

International Journal of Technology Transfer and Commercialisation, 2002 Vol.1 No.4, pp.373-384

Published online: 18 Aug 2003 *

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