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MEEF - Recycling Technologies  - previous page

Gaining raw materials through hydrothermic methods

It looks like magic: a reactor is fed with carbon-bearing waste such as used oil, cardboard, tar, and plastic, and out comes 99.9% pure hydrogen and a residual carbonic gas compound.


The procedure is called Hydrotherm and was invented by Friedrich Suppan. The secret is alkaline hydrides which quadruple the economic yield for the same amount of raw materials.

“The question of efficiency is scorned and ignored by those who stick to traditional ways of thinking,” explains Wolfgang Kraft, director of the Institute for the Creative Management of Innovation and Enterprise Strategy (ICI).

The Hydrotherm process is part of a group of intelligent technologies which can help to approach factor 4 in ecological efficiency, says Kraft (to reach factor 4, we must reduce our energy consumption now, and develop renewable energy sources).

Thanks to the “washing machine effect”, waste such as used oil, straw, rape oil meal, sawdust, cardboard, tar, used tyres, bitumen, and polythene are broken up at temperatures of 600 - 900 °C. As well as hydrogen, alkaline hydrides and carbonates are produced.

“The gases produced by the system – hydrogen and volatile alkaline hydrides – are used to extract precious metals,” says Kraft.

This characteristic of the Hydrotherm process – alkaline hydrides – could give a boost to hydrogen technology and make a real difference, especially in sales of hydrogen-powered vehicles. This new fuel, economic to produce and use, will be available in the medium term, like petrol, for cost-effective use.

Another green thermal process which has been scientifically evaluated and patented in another phase of the project can produce pure silicon tetrachloride from chlorinated hydrogen and in a later phase will enable the cost-effective production of titanium and silicon. These possibilities, whose number will only increase, show that progress in efficiency towards factor 4 is always possible.

(Umwelt Journal, Austria,


New method for analysing nuclear waste


“The European Union currently produces about 35% of its electricity from nuclear power stations. The disadvantage of nuclear power stations is that they produce radioactive waste. Over 95% of the radioactivity of nuclear waste is a result of electricity production, and radioactive waste is potentially dangerous for the biosphere. The essential goal of radioactive waste management is to treat it in such a way that human and environmental safety is always guaranteed,” says Karen van Hecke of the German SCK Institute, directed by Professor Reinhard Odoj; she carried out tests for her doctoral thesis.

“Before drums of radioactive waste can be stored, they must be checked to make sure they comply with the requirements for the storage area. Each drum must have affixed to it a document which describes the waste in it. National governments, which own the storage areas, must check these documents before the drums are stored. There are also random checks to verify the accuracy of the documents. This is intended to combat fraud, since the type of waste determines its category and hence the cost of storage.”


To test the quality of the drums, the German regulatory authority, BfS, has developed both non-destructive and destructive methods of analysis. “In a destructive analysis, the drum is opened and samples are taken and chemically analysed. The disadvantage of this technique is that it requires several procedures for isolating and sterilising the items to be examined, before the necessary tests can be done.


These separation methods involve a lot of time and money, and expose laboratory staff to radiation. So multiple automated tests are essential to reduce costs and exposure to radiation,” says Karen van Hecke.

“One possibility for removing most of the radioactivity from the samples is to carry out a selective extraction of the elements to be analysed. To achieve this, our team developed and tested two resins. One of them was also tested by another group of researchers, who confirmed our results. As a result this resin is now commercially available.”






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