Waste to Electricity essay
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Municipal solid wastes have become the new source of clean energy in the 21st century. There are several techniques that have been applied to ensure that these environmental projects remain cost effective and friendly to the environment. For instance, combustion effectively destroys solid wastes with release of energy without significantly causing environmental pollution. However, combustion is only viable for organic matter that burns up to release carbon dioxide as the only major pollutant. Although, carbon dioxide considerably contributes to the formation of acid rain, its release can be effectively regulated at relatively low costs. This can be achieved by the use of carbon dioxide absorbers, or by passing it through chambers, where it is dissolved in water to make commercial carbonic acid. Nonetheless, combustion should not be used for inorganic industrial wastes, because the byproducts could be more harmful to health that the solid wastes them. For instance, inorganic phosphates would burn up to release sulfur dioxide that could form more harmful by product, sulfuric acid (Horstman, 2007).
The other technique that has been employed in generating energy from waste products includes pyrolysis. This is basically the process of decomposing wastes, where organic matter is burned at elevated temperatures under oxygen free conditions. Ideally, this technique has significant controls that ensure that the release of byproducts into the environment is done systematically without posing much public health risks. Basically, pyrolysis causes irreversible change in the chemical, as well as the physical composition of the waste products to release their energy contents. For instance, in the decomposition of wood, pyrolysis is done at elevated temperature of about 250 degrees centigrade. This causes production of gas and other liquids, thereby leaving behind solid mass that is almost very rich in its carbon content. On the other hand, the gasification technique has been widely applied in the utilization of solid wastes to generate energy. This process focuses on converting the organic matter into gaseous carbons that can then be used as fuels. Usually, the solid wastes are decomposed at extremely high temperatures of about 700 degrees centigrade under the controlled oxygen and moisture levels. The entire process leads to the formation of synthetic gas that is basically a mixture of several gases. In order to reap maximum benefits from the gases produced, the mixture is usually separated into single gas compositions and sold as pure gases. This can also be done using plasma gasification process that focuses on using high temperatures to ionize gas that is then used to break down organic matter into the solid masses and gas mixtures. Although, the two methods are fundamentally the same, the use of ionized gas is generally more expensive and is hardly used (Beychok, 1975).
In conclusion, a great deal of wealth and health has been discovered in municipal solid wastes. Although, initially viewed as environmental contaminant, solid wastes can currently be used in the manufacture of gaseous products and to regulate environmental pollution. In fact, the United Nations consider this one of the greatest achievements of the century, especially considering that the new global challenge is environmental pollution.