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Sierra Energy, a private waste-to-energy company in the US, has invented a literal magic wand that turns waste into clean renewable energy just like that. How? By vapourising rubbish, a clean alternative to burning trash that emits zero greenhouse gases. The ‘wand’ in question is a system called FastOx gasification.

2.01 billion tonnes of trash are generated globally by us each year. Around 33% is not managed in an environmentally safe way. Trash is either incinerated, where every tonne that is burnt releases nearly half a tonne of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, or is dumped in landfills where it rots and produces methane. Or, sometimes, it is recycled – but this goes for purportedly less than a quarter of all waste.

Enter Sierra Energy, headed by the company’s founder, president, and CEO Mike Hart who launched Sierra in 2004.

The goal of Hart and the company is to create sustainable power for the world by commercialising waste gasification, the process of vapourising organic waste and converting it into fuel for energy without incinerating it. The process does not generate any carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases and produces renewable fuel.

Under Hart’s lead, Sierra invented the “magic wand”, a system unit called FastOx for the purpose of waste gasification, with success. The company aims to issue commercial licences for the system this year for the first time and has already received communication from 8,000 interested parties about the system.

How does the system of FastOx gasification work?

FastOx is a unit that inserts trash into the top of a chamber in the gasifier unit which is shaped a bit like a metal chimney flue. Here the waste is dried by hot rising syngas that is produced at the bottom of the gasifier.

Oxygen and steam are then injected into the base of the unit which initiates chemical exothermic reactions in the waste that produce extreme heat, up to 2,200 degrees Celsius, and turns the organic waste in the vessel into char while breaking it down at the molecular level.

This char then meets with the oxygen and steam and interacts with them to generate syngas – a sustainable, clean form of fuel.

Among the magical factors of this process is the fact that the system is powered by energy derived from the actual garbage – it literally becomes energy in order to create new energy.

What is syngas?

At its core, syngas is a mix of two vapours: hydrogen and carbon monoxide. It can be used as a power source or repurposed into other carbon compounds.

What happens to the inorganic matter in the trash in the FastOx?

Not a bit of the garbage placed in the gasifier goes to waste, no pun intended. While 90% of trash can be broken down into carbon-based compounds by the heat, inorganic matter cannot. However, the high temperatures liquify this matter and it instead melts down into non-leaching stones and metals which are resold for road bases or building aggregate.

This means there are absolutely no waste byproducts produced in the gasification process.

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