At Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, under the direction of Yiannis Levendis, professor of mechanical and industrial engineering, a group of undergraduate and postgraduate students of engineering have designed a combustion chamber that converts plastic waste into clean energy and reduces the minimum release of harmful emissions.

The prototype was presented at the fifth annual energy conference at MIT, the renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The team worked for nine months in the investigation, which for undergraduate students meant their final-year project.

According to its developers, the self-sustainability is the key to the design of a dual combustion chamber tank. The process involves, first, the waste plastics are converted into gas through pyrolysis. Then the gas flows into a lower reservoir where it is burnt with oxidants to generate heat and steam. The heat keeps the combustion chamber, while steam can be used to generate electricity.

“The prototype can expand and adapt to a large power station, which could be connected to a plastic recycling center for a steady flow of fuel,” said David Laskowski, one of the student participants of the project.

Professor Levendis, which in the past 20 years has conducted research on the combustion of plastics and other waste, currently focuses on the concept of vaporization of solid waste plastic, thereby reducing levels of harmful emissions during the process combustion.

“The inspiration behind my research is the quest to develop clean energy sources, cost-effective compared to declining fossil fuel reserves,” said Levendis. “It will also help get rid of the unsightly, non-biodegradable plastic waste can not be recycled.”

According to Laskowski, calculations show that if all the plastic waste of the country were recycled, new technology has the potential to replace up to 462 million gallons of oil.

“Currently, we are consuming and expensive conventional fuels to produce electricity quality. Fuel created with this system will reduce the cost of electricity for future generations,” said Levendis.

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