|Industrial sector(s)||Waste management
|Main technologies or sub-processes||Plasma arc
|Feedstock||Municipal and industrial waste
Separated metal scrap
Plasma gasification is a process which converts organic matter into synthetic gas, electricity, and slag using plasma. A plasma torch powered by an electric arc is used to ionize gas and catalyze organic matter into synthetic gas and solid waste (slag). It is used commercially as a form of waste treatment and has been tested for the gasification of biomass and solid hydrocarbons, such as coal, oil sands, and oil shale.
A plasma torch uses inert gas such as steam. The electrodes vary from copper or tungsten to hafnium or zirconium, along with various other alloys. High voltage electricity with a high current energizes the two electrodes causing the electric arc. Pressurized inert gas ionizes passing through the arc creating plasma. The torch's temperature ranges from 4,000 to 25,000 °F (2,200 to 13,900 °C). The correct temperature of the plasma reaction structures the plasma of forming gas. This minimizes ballast contents[clarification needed], composed of the byproducts of oxidation: CO2, N, H2O, etc..
At these conditions molecular dissociation can occur by breaking down molecular bonds. The resulting basic elemental components are a gas. Complex molecules are separated into individual atoms. Molecular dissociation using plasma is referred to as "plasma pyrolysis."
The feedstock for plasma waste treatment is most often municipal solid waste, organic waste, or both. Feedstocks may also include biomedical waste and hazmat materials. Content and consistency of the waste directly impacts performance of a plasma facility. Pre-sorting and recycling useful material before gasification provides consistency. Too much inorganic material such as metal and construction waste increases slag production. In turn this decreases syngas production. However the benefit is that the slag itself is chemically inert and safe to handle. Certain materials may affect the content of the gas produced, however. Shredding waste before entering the main chamber helps. This creates an efficient transfer of energy. This ensures more materials are broken down.
Pure high calorific synthetic gas consists of CO, H2, CH, etc.. The conversion rate of plasma gasification exceeds 99%. Non-flammable inorganic components in the waste stream are not broken down. A phase change from solid to liquid adds to the volume of slag. This includes various metals.
Plasma processing of waste is ecologically clean. The lack of oxygen prevents toxic formations. The high temperatures in a reactor prevents the main elements of gas from forming toxic compounds such as furans, dioxins, NOX, or sulfur dioxide. Water filtration removes ash and gaseous pollutants.
The production of ecologically clean synthetic gas is the standard goal. The gas contains no phenols or complex hydrocarbons. Circulating water from filtering systems is toxic. The water has become ecologically deadly. The water removes toxins, poisons, and the hazardous substances must be cleaned.
Metals resulting from plasma pyrolysis can be recovered from the slag. Then it is a commodity. Inert slag is granulated. This slag grain is used in construction. A portion of syngas feeds on-site turbines. This powers the plasma torches. This powers the feed system. This is self-sustaining electric power.
The main advantages of plasma technologies for waste treatment are:
- Clean destruction of hazardous waste,
- preventing hazardous waste from reaching landfills,
- no harmful emissions of toxic waste,
- production of clean alloyed slag which could be used as construction material,
- processing of organic waste into combustible syngas for electric power and thermal energy, and
- production of value-added products (metals) from slag.
Main disadvantages of plasma technologies for waste treatment are:
- Large initial investment costs relative to landfill and
- the plasma flame reduces the diameter of the sampler orifice over time, necessitating occasional maintenance.
Municipal-scale plasma gasification is used commercially for waste disposal in nine locations with five more projects in development. Sites for gasification facilities are often at landfills where recuperative landfill mining can return the landfills to their original states. Plasma arc gasification is a safe means to destroy both medical and other hazardous waste.
Military Use 
The US Navy is employing Plasma Arc Waste Destruction System (PAWDS) on its latest generation Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier. The compact system being used will treat all combustible solid waste generated on board the ship. After having completed factory acceptance testing in Montreal, the system is scheduled to be shipped to the Huntington Ingalls shipyard for installation on the carrier.
See also 
- List of plasma (physics) applications articles
- Plasma (physics)
- Staged reforming
- Waste management
- Waste to energy
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- Gasification Technologies Council
- Westinghouse Plasma Corporation
- Tetronics International
- PEAT International - Plasma Thermal Destruction & Recovery Technology (PTDR)
- Advanced Plasma Power
- Department of Trade and Industry - Using thermal plasma technology to create a valuable product from hazardous waste
- PyroGenesis Canada Inc.