Department of Chemistry
University of Fort Hare
CHARACTERISATION OF MUNICIPAL ORGANIC WASTE FOR MICROWAVE INDUCED PLASMA GASIFICATION
Thousands of tons of municipal solid waste are generated in Africa every day and of that 70% is organic waste (United States Agency of International Development, 2009). South Africa and the whole world are faced with the challenge of effective organic waste management as it is responsible for releasing potentially hazardous chemicals into landfill leachate and producing high quantities of methane into the air (Westerman & Bicudo, 2004).
Plasma gasification is a process in which the inorganic components of the municipal solid waste and all the organic contents of the waste are converted into syngas, (basically a mix of H2 + CO, almost a green fuel) and in addition electrical power is generated (Belgioino, De Feo, Della Rocca, & Napoli, 2003). The plasma gasification process does not generate ashes, and does not pollute the air, the water or the soil (Arena, 2012). The plasma torches operate at very high temperatures (between 5,000ºC and 100,000ºC) can process all kinds of waste: municipal solid, toxic, medical, biohazard and industrial at atmospheric pressure. Inorganic waste is vitrified in solid-like glass materials that are used to manufacture aggregates for the construction industry (magmavication process) and the organic materials (plastics, paper, oil, bio-materials, etc.) are converted into syngas with caloric value, fuel that is used on the heavy-duty advanced gas turbines for the generation of electrical power (gasification process) (Leal-Quiros, 2004).