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Giant Microwave Turns Plastic Back to Oil

samzenpus posted more than 7 years ago | from the but-how-is-it-on-popcorn dept.

Science 555

An anonymous reader writes "From the newscientist article: "Key to GRC's process is a machine that uses 1200 different frequencies within the microwave range, which act on specific hydrocarbon materials. As the material is zapped at the appropriate wavelength, part of the hydrocarbons that make up the plastic and rubber in the material are broken down into diesel oil and combustible gas.""

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Hooray! (5, Funny)

Spudtrooper (1073512) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671781)

Finally, a use for all those AOL CDs!

Re:Hooray! (1)

Harmonious Botch (921977) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671837)

I have truly scary visions of Karen Black running on AOL software.

Re:Hooray! (5, Funny)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 7 years ago | (#19672025)

Finally, a use for all those AOL CDs!

... and the term "CD burning" acquires a completely new meaning.

Re:Hooray! (1)

Zekasu (1059298) | more than 7 years ago | (#19672337)

I believe it would be "CD nuking", on high for about 3:45.

Re:Hooray! (1)

Faylone (880739) | more than 7 years ago | (#19672397)

Considering the metal in a CD, I suspect burning would be quite accurate

I've been saying for years (5, Insightful)

afidel (530433) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671785)

That the mines of the next century will be our garbage mountains. It will be the place with the highest density of easily obtainable materials.

Re:I've been saying for years (1)

Endymion (12816) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671813)

Ooo... mindwarp [imdb.com] was correct, then!

Re:I've been saying for years (4, Interesting)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671965)

same here. metals, oil, gas... rubbish piles have all of them in 100x the abundance that natural deposits do. whats lacking is methods to get them, no doubt some clever cookies will figure that out once the price is right.

Re:I've been saying for years (-1, Troll)

eht (8912) | more than 7 years ago | (#19672259)

Cheap immigrant labor, legalize them all and get rid of the minimum wage laws.

Re:I've been saying for years (2, Funny)

Inner_Child (946194) | more than 7 years ago | (#19672251)

Wow, now I really CAN power my Delorean. 1885, here I come!

Re:I've been saying for years (1, Funny)

cashman73 (855518) | more than 7 years ago | (#19672511)

No! No! No! You've got it all wrong! Remember when Doc Brown answered Marty's inquiry about whether the DeLorean ran on regular unleaded? "No! No! No! This sucker's electrical! But I need a nuclear reaction to generate the 1.21 Gigawatts of electricity I need!"

Re:I've been saying for years (4, Insightful)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#19672297)

The only problem is that they also have a very high density of thoroughly toxic materials, stuff that you really don't want disturbed if you can avoid it.

Unfortunately, I could easily see it being economically infeasible to mine garbage dumps, because the cost of environmental remediation would be worse than just leaving the resources there, entombed with all the hazardous stuff.

Really, if we had a slightly longer planning horizon than we seem to have, we'd at least be sorting our garbage before burying it, instead of piling it all together. Just pulling out all the metal and putting it in one hole, with the plastic and organics in another, or burying similar types of appliances together, would make the landfills that much more attractive to mine later on.

Re:I've been saying for years (3, Interesting)

borizz (1023175) | more than 7 years ago | (#19672319)

In the Netherlands, you are asked to do just that.

We have separate containers (and pick-up services) for normal trash, green trash (anything bio-degradable), chemical trash (paint, batteries and stuff) and paper.

Instead of 1 large trashcan, we have 4 smaller ones.

Need an enforcement structure, though. (5, Informative)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#19672491)

True, but how is it enforced? Perhaps in the Netherlands, people can be trusted to just do it, but I'm not sure that would work here.

In fact, I'm pretty sure that in my municipality, it's technically illegal to throw out anything that's toxic into the regular trash, but there's no enforcement mechanism, and given a choice between taking that old NiCd phone battery or fluorescent light tube to the recycling center, and just putting it in the trash ... well, you tell me which one people are going to do? (Hint, it's the one that's less work.) Hell, I know people who don't even recycle metals, because it's too much work to sort stuff into the bin that they're already given. Easier just to chuck it all in one bin and not think about it. And that's only two cans, one for all mixed recyclables and one for 'everything else.'

I've heard anecdotally that in Japan, there are people who basically go through trash at transfer stations, and will hunt down (based on personally identifying information in the trash) those folks who don't sort their recyclables out and reprimand/embarrass them -- short of something vaguely creepy like that (and in the U.S., social ostracism and humiliation aren't going to work as punishments), I'm not sure any consumer-sorting programs are going to work.

Without draconian enforcement, I think the sorting has to be -- or at least has to be backed up by sorting -- done at the transfer station or dump.

From a different perspective, sorting garbage based on predetermined criteria seems to be like something that, once you get over the initial investment in the system that does it, is probably better done by one giant machine that sorts the garbage for 100,000 people, than each of those 100,000 people having to take a few minutes a day to think about it. From a purely economic perspective, the opportunity cost of everyone's time probably justifies an automatic sorter, and when you factor in the recovered value from the recyclables [1] and the possible "dump mining" aspects that it creates later, I'd think it would be a good investment.

[1] The value of the metal and Type 1 plastic, anyway; the higher-number plastics don't seem to be worth recycling right now, at least based on what I've read.

Re:Need an enforcement structure, though. (2, Insightful)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 7 years ago | (#19672539)

what are you talking about? normal mining is plenty toxic as it is. dig a deep hole looking for ore and your assured of running into fiberous material (asbestso) at the very least.

hell yellow cake is found 180m at times

Re:I've been saying for years (1)

arivanov (12034) | more than 7 years ago | (#19672449)

So do many natural resources.

Have you ever seen a river downstream of a flotation separation plant which has been processing lead for the last 30 years? Those nice steel grey coloured sand beeches going for miles and miles downstream. And the strange quietness of the river itself...

Re:I've been saying for years (1)

Ekhymosis (949557) | more than 7 years ago | (#19672383)

This is what China and other nations are doing with the pc 'recycle' programs. Do you know how much gold they can gather from a few pc's? Gives a whole new meaning to gold farming =)

My only question is this.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19672497)

Ever see what happens to gold in a microwave? Sparks. Lots of them. I've never seen what happens to copper.

So what happens when plastics are recycled off of gold/copper wiring and sparks are among the by-products?

but... (4, Insightful)

PhrostyMcByte (589271) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671807)

no mention on how much energy it takes to run the thing, or how much energy it puts out. it's not of much use if it costs a fraction to just bury the old plastic and make new stuff from scratch.

Re:but... (3, Informative)

kanani (882288) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671829)

according to TFA, it makes enough fuel from the autofluff (ground up tire refuse) to run the machine

Re:but... (5, Insightful)

Iron Sun (227218) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671863)

The article doesn't give exact figures, but it does say:

GRC says its Hawk-10 can extract enough oil and gas from the left-over fluff to run the Hawk-10 itself and a number of other machines used by Gershow.

That addresses the energy issue, but still leaves open the question of how much it costs to maintain the equipment. You'd have to think they've got some sort of business model worked out if they've progressed to the point of selling to customers.

Re:but... (2, Interesting)

slughead (592713) | more than 7 years ago | (#19672073)

You'd have to think they've got some sort of business model worked out if they've progressed to the point of selling to customers.

Or it's a dead end that has no commercial value and will probably only be used in research.

That'd be my guess; the oil used to make plastic isn't that expensive... yet.

Re:but... (4, Insightful)

jcr (53032) | more than 7 years ago | (#19672183)

If all it does is recylce plastics, that's a commercial value right there. Landfill space is getting scarce in a lot of cities.

-jcr

Re:but... (4, Insightful)

Rei (128717) | more than 7 years ago | (#19672421)

Not only reducing landfill; this could be huge in electronics recycling. Much of that recycling goes on (officially illegally) in China. It goes like this: they take all parts that have copper in them and throw them in a big heap all day. At night, they douse the huge heap in fuel and light it; the plastics burn all night, spewing huge amounts of toxins across the landscape. In the morning, they collect the blackened ball of copper for sale and brush aside the ash.

Compare that to this, where, according to the article, it produces enough oil to run itself plus "other" machinery. Coated wire goes in, stripped wire comes out.

One big issue comes up for me: the contents of that oil. In such a recycling process, the oil itself could simply be gelled and discarded, with the energy to run the machine coming from cleaner sources; the key issue is that you're not doing burns of toxic plastics. So it's still useful. For wider use, however, one would want the oil to be clean enough to use. What happens with chlorinated plastics, like PVC? Where does the chlorine end up? What about fluorinated plastics? And so on -- where do all of these things end up?

Re:but... (4, Insightful)

Iron Sun (227218) | more than 7 years ago | (#19672243)

It obviously isn't completely unviable, as they have their first customer lined up. It must make economic sense to them.

It also doesn't require that the oil produced be comparable in price to the imported stuff, as there is additional value added in the form of reduced processing of their auto waste. If the machine creates real savings in that area then the fact that it powers itself is a nice secondary feature.

A landfill reducing device that powers itself with a net energy surplus doesn't sound like it has no commercial value.

Re:but... (1)

arivanov (12034) | more than 7 years ago | (#19672473)

Not quite. At least here, on this side of the pond, rubber is now illegal to be dumped into landfill and the available methods for recycling suck bricks through a rubber hose sideways. As a result it is being stored and the storage capacity at the few sites allowed to store it is decreasing extremely fast. So the economical factors are already skewed in favour of something like this. All these chaps need to do is send a letter to EU refuse processing companies and they will have a queue of byers lined up for the next decade.

Re:but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19672185)

I think they are counting on oil prices to rise... from their web site they seem to be putting a lot more effort into getting this to work on oil shales and resid oil (basically the useless part of the oil). Probably not worth it for the money now... but in the future... we could prolong our oil dependence for a few more decades. Seems kind of cool actually, if not from an energy standpoint, then from a waste management standpoint. Turning cars waste etc into useful stuff is a neat idea and sounds like it might be near term economical. Energy consuming, but then again everything is. And from an energy standpoint, this sounds a lot more efficient that pyrolysis or something.

-sk

Re:but... (1)

Fire Dragon (146616) | more than 7 years ago | (#19672519)

getting this to work on oil shales and resid oil (basically the useless part of the oil).

How would this work with tanker accidents? You line up these on the beach and start pouring the spilled crude oil/water/dead animals/sand mixture into it and get something useafull back. Watcing people cleaning up rocks for weeks with toothbrushes doesn't really sound like very efficient way to clean up things.

Re:but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19672211)

Errr... did they doublecheck that Hawk-10 is free of plastic and rubber parts???

Re:but... (1)

GoodbyeBlueSky1 (176887) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671899)

While this is surely an important question, I don't think that alone would determine whether or not it has "much use". If the energy going into the process doesn't use combustible gas at all (so I guess nuclear or solar? coal?) and the gas coming out can power a combustion engine like one found in, say, a car... Well anyway I'd prefer we wean off of gas and oil altogether, but until that happens this looks like a promising intermediate step. I hope.

Sure there are pollution effects, but hopefully the reduction of plastic waste can offset that. It's a lot of ifs, but I'm feeling optimistic today.

Re:but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19671909)

Last few lines of the article mention the first buyer being able to run the machine in question and have some left over fuel to power some of his other machines.

Re:but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19671917)

RTFA...it can run itself along with a few other mahines....

Re:but... (3, Funny)

protolith (619345) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671939)

And no mention of the really cool lightning created when you leave a metal fork in the plastic.

Same argument for hydrogen-Why it is viable. (2, Insightful)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671987)

The short of it is that you need to do is put a lot of electrical energy into water and you get hydrogen. Electricity can't run a car because you can't just have an extension cord dragging out the back. Hydrogen is a portable form of energy that a car can run on. The fact that it takes more energy to produce than gasoline is irrelevant.

Re:but... (5, Insightful)

ricree (969643) | more than 7 years ago | (#19672031)

no mention on how much energy it takes to run the thing, or how much energy it puts out. it's not of much use if it costs a fraction to just bury the old plastic and make new stuff from scratch.
They claim that it is capable of pulling out enough fuel to have a surplus, but even if it isn't it could still be viable as a means to recycle plastics. I don't know how economically viable that would be now, but the raw materials for plastic are likely to rise, while the price of these machines will likely fall. Even if it is not viable now, who is to say it will never be. All in all, it sounds plausible.

Re:but... (3, Informative)

thedohman (932417) | more than 7 years ago | (#19672221)

Check out the company's website: http://www.globalresourcecorp.com/Tire%20Recycling .html [globalresourcecorp.com]

ENERGY RECOVERY RATES
20 POUND CAR TIRE BY PRODUCT BREAKDOWN:
OIL (# 4) - 1.2 GALLONS 8.5 POUNDS
GAS - 50 CF - 3000 BTUS 2.0 POUNDS
STEEL 2.0 POUNDS
CARBON BLACK 7.5 POUNDS

No mention of how much goes into removing that stuff though.
The tech can also convert the oil in shale and tar sands into natural gas and some other gases that can converted into oil... at least that's what they say. No word on how to purchase said device.

Re:but... (2, Insightful)

kestasjk (933987) | more than 7 years ago | (#19672275)

no mention on how much energy it takes to run the thing, or how much energy it puts out. it's not of much use if it costs a fraction to just bury the old plastic and make new stuff from scratch.
It might be useful in a future world powered by fusion or breeder reactors where we have plenty of energy but no oil.

Re:but... (1)

Stellian (673475) | more than 7 years ago | (#19672369)

Not to mention the fact that plastic is much more expensive than oil.
If you have plastic, simply recycle it and make expensive plastic instead of cheap oil, to be used in the manufacture of new plastic.

People... (2, Interesting)

thegrassyknowl (762218) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671809)

People are made of hydrocarbons... kind of!

Will this be the new trendy form of cremation?

Re:People... (1)

Spillman (711713) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671961)

Didn't they do something like this in MadMax Beyond Thunderdome?
 
  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0089530/ [imdb.com] But with pigs?

Re:People... (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19671985)

Will this be the new trendy form of cremation?


Was there ever a "trendy" form of cremation?

Re:People... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19672059)

Sure thing: http://www.warfoto.com/concentr.htm [warfoto.com]

Re:People... (3, Funny)

patman600 (669121) | more than 7 years ago | (#19672399)

Well, I know I've been dying to try it.

Exxon has been working on that. Re:People... (4, Funny)

twitter (104583) | more than 7 years ago | (#19672039)

This is true and people have been using animal fat as a fuel ever since they discovered fire. Exxon realized that 150,000 people already die each year from global warming and their bodies represent an untapped, carbon neutral fuel source. Check out the results at Vivoleum.com [vivoleum.com] , and you to may want to be a candle or SUV fodder. Burn guilt free!

OMG (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19672145)

You can probably blame this on Micro$loth Winbloze!!!

Re:OMG (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19672317)

Dear AC,

You're Next!

Sincerely,
The Yes Men

Re:People... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19672167)

Idea for new hybrid. Fill'er up with Soylent Green.

Great, so... (3, Funny)

Bin_jammin (684517) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671811)

when I stop at the gas station/convenience store, I'll be able to buy a burrito that's 1/2 frozen coming out of the microwave, and fuel 1/2 frozen coming out of the microwave. How far we've come!

Re:Great, so... (3, Funny)

afidel (530433) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671851)

Well, then you get all the fuel back since the burrito is already going to produce a ton of methane =)

Interestingly (5, Funny)

GammaKitsune (826576) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671815)

I've gotten my microwave at home to break my food back down into component carbons. Or at least something pretty similar to coal.

So Thermodynamics Nazis... (1)

MonorailCat (1104823) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671825)

Whats the energy in/out on this one? Worth it?

Even if the process uses a lot of energy it seems to me it beats landfilling.

Re:So Thermodynamics Nazis... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19671901)

FTA: "GRC says its Hawk-10 can extract enough oil and gas from the left-over fluff to run the Hawk-10 itself and a number of other machines used by Gershow." So, yeah, you get energy out of this, I guess. You do add a bunch of CO2 to the atmosphere, though...

Re:So Thermodynamics Nazis... (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671997)

"You do add a bunch of CO2 to the atmosphere, though..."

so what? C02 is an ineffective greenhouse gas. water vapour is what produces most of the earth greenhouse.

Re:So Thermodynamics Nazis... (4, Informative)

Homo Stannous (756539) | more than 7 years ago | (#19672099)

Water vapor would be a powerful greenhouse gas, if there weren't already so much of it there. Basically, our atmosphere has so much water vapor, that every frequency of IR that can be absorbed by it is already fully absorbed. So more water vapor won't make a difference. CO2 and CH4, on the other hand, are potent greenhouse gasses because not only do they absorb IR, but they're pretty scarce our atmosphere.

this is great (1)

pfhlick (900680) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671831)

I hope they figure out a way to turn people into fuel soon. The article talks about using this to salvage copper wire and save space in landfill. Microwaving shredded car tires to extract diesel. How long 'til there is a reclaimation center on every corner? The streets could get a whole lot cleaner soon...

Re:this is great (0)

stwrtpj (518864) | more than 7 years ago | (#19672201)

I hope they figure out a way to turn people into fuel soon.
Soylent Oil is made from PEOPLE!!

(Shut up, someone had to say it ...)

ahh, lemme guess... (0, Redundant)

gondwannabe (1028488) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671839)

...it'll take just slightly more energy to break down the plastic than the oil will yield?

damn you, you laws of physics you!

Re:ahh, lemme guess... (1)

Sierran (155611) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671871)

Doesn't necessarily follow. That would only be true if plastic was oxidized fuel, which it's not. Plastic will burn, so there's net positive energy bound up in it. The question is whether that energy is more or less than the energy required to rearrange/break enough bonds to convert it to a state which is handy to consume in engines.

Re:ahh, lemme guess... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19672391)

modding asshole - redundant by one frickin minute - lookat the post times!

Millions of uses (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19671861)

Oil company execs, RIAA, MPAA, even Bill Gates can now of be use to the rest of the world. PS: Solient Green.

Question about the process... (3, Interesting)

The Master Control P (655590) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671869)

What I gather is that they use multiple magnetrons or microwave circuits to generate frequencies that will resonate with all the common bonds in hydrocarbons, just as 2.4Ghz is the resonant frequency of the protons in a water molecule swinging back and forth. However, they also claim (for example) that it can dissolve the insulation off a piece of copper wire. But it's still the same principle as a microwave oven, so I ask: how can they put a conductor into the chamber and not have it immediately burn up due to microwave absorbtion? Cut it up into teeny bits?

Re:Question about the process... (1)

Firehed (942385) | more than 7 years ago | (#19672001)

If 2.4GHz is the resonant frequency for water molecules, why the hell doesn't my WiFi keep my coffee hot?

Re:Question about the process... (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 7 years ago | (#19672035)

because it's running at fuck all watts, thats why. microwave ovens are 800 - 1000 watts, where wifi runs at milli watts.

Re:Question about the process... (1)

crazyjimmy (927974) | more than 7 years ago | (#19672325)

So...you're saying I need a bigger wifi transmitter?

BRILLIANT!
--Jimmy

Re:Question about the process... (4, Funny)

P3NIS_CLEAVER (860022) | more than 7 years ago | (#19672257)

your brain has absorbed most of the energy

Re:Question about the process... (3, Informative)

The Master Control P (655590) | more than 7 years ago | (#19672281)

WiFi is limited to less than half a watt or a watt (IIRC) by FCC restrictions of unlicensed RF transmitters, whereas microwave ovens are 500 to 1500 watts. More importantly, WiFi antennae aren't built into chambers designed to create a standing wave of energy, which amplifies their power by reflecting microwaves off the walls and giving them the chance to heat the water again.

Is it cost effective? (2, Informative)

boguslinks (1117203) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671893)

But it's recycling, we're not allowed to ask if it's worth it, because if we did [williams.edu] we might not bother to recycle anything.

No! We must recycle - it's China's turn! (1)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 7 years ago | (#19672343)

The West has to conserve to give someone else a chance to use up what's left.

Every hydrocarbon you save can be used somewhere else. [bostonherald.com]

I knew it! (5, Funny)

weinrich (414267) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671897)

"Take a piece of copper wiring," says Meddick. "It is encased in plastic - a kind of hydrocarbon material. [stick it in our microwave] and we release all the hydrocarbons, which strips the casing off the wire."
I knew the microwave manufacturer's were lying to us all these years! They kept telling us not to put metal in our microwaves, and now I know why: they just wanted to keep this money-making technology to themselves. You Bastards!

Re:I knew it! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19672037)

actually, they just dont want to get sued when your magnetron dies or you cause a fire.

supposedly, you -can- put metal in the microwave if its not touching the metal at the bottom (put it on the glass platter) or close enough to the sides to arc. Ive even seen cooking directions recommend aluminum foil to keep parts of food from cooking. I still haven't been balsy enough to try it.

Re:I knew it! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19672127)

I have a microwave egg cooker that has an outer shell of plastic and an inner shell of metal. You put water in the bottom, the metal shields the egg from direct microwaves, the microwave boils the water and the steam cooks the egg. Works great.

similar to petrol cracking (2, Informative)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671907)

The process they are talking about sounds a lot like petroleum cracking, both use catalysts to break larger hydrocarbons/polymers into smaller pieces but the petroleum cracking takes place upwards of 1000 degrees so if it is already being used, why not this too? Currently to produces plastics we use crack petroleum into ethylene, propylene etc. and to produces certain precursors we use superacids, zeolites and super lewis acids which are really not very environmentally friendly. whatever use they can get out of the process without needing to crack more petrol is a good thing at least on paper.

hertz (1)

martin_henry (1032656) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671919)

does 1200 different frequencies mean that the bandwidth is discontinuous?
imagine how long they spent choosing all those frequencies...

Re:hertz (1)

robbak (775424) | more than 7 years ago | (#19672331)

Yes, it has to be 1200 separate frequencies. Yes, locating and creating them all is the neat thing about this.
Additionally, the best way to create microwave radiation of any strength is using a magnetron. Each magnetron develops one frequency. The frequency of a magnetron is determined by the size and shape of the spaces between the fins (check the wikipedia article). That's a lot of custom manufacturing.

So this is a really neat trick. Well done.

Irony (5, Funny)

vertigoCiel (1070374) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671937)

Powering the next generation with the accumulated shit of the previous one. Brilliant.

Jesus would be proud! (1)

JEGSYDAU (1082977) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671941)

It's the modern day equivalent of turning water into wine.

Re:Jesus would be proud! (1)

Miseph (979059) | more than 7 years ago | (#19672503)

Dude... where can I get my microwave that turns water into wine? Does it come with a "beer" setting? Any chance it can zap rocks into tasty appetizers? Does it also clone fish? I'm already sold.

Good! (4, Funny)

Robber Baron (112304) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671963)

Good! they can start by zapping all that annoying hard plastic bubble packaging that every bleeding thing seems to come in now and is harder then hell to open without damaging the contents! What frigging idiot came up with that idea?!? If there isn't a hell, they should make one, and put idiots like that in it! I know...a prison...we'll strip them naked and make sure their cells are free of anything with sharp or pointed edges, and all their meals, toilet paper, soap etc will come wrapped in their diabolical inventions!

Re:Good! (1)

pyrrhonist (701154) | more than 7 years ago | (#19672273)

Good! they can start by zapping all that annoying hard plastic bubble packaging that every bleeding thing seems to come in now and is harder then hell to open without damaging the contents!

But, but... Then I'll have to zap my As Seen on TV products! [pyranna.com]

Re:Good! (1)

tylernt (581794) | more than 7 years ago | (#19672375)

annoying hard plastic bubble packaging that every bleeding thing seems to come in now and is harder then hell to open
Two words: tin snips.

Too good to be true? (0, Redundant)

posterlogo (943853) | more than 7 years ago | (#19671995)

How much energy does it take to run that "microwave" to convert some plastic back to usable hydrocarbons? It's presumably powered by electricity...and where did that electricity come from? Most electricity around the world comes from the consumption of fossil fuels. If this process could be linked exclusively to alternate energy sources, like solar or wind, etc., then it might be a net positive thing.

Re:Too good to be true? (1)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 7 years ago | (#19672063)

How much energy does it take to run that "microwave" to convert some plastic back to usable hydrocarbons? It's presumably powered by electricity...and where did that electricity come from?

From usable hydrocarbons, of course! :D

Already done in a bioreactor (5, Funny)

Anne_Nonymous (313852) | more than 7 years ago | (#19672009)

>> plastic... broken down into... combustible gas

Try feeding your dog a (small) Lego. It has the same effect. For almost a week.

Re:Already done in a bioreactor (1)

sussane (1111533) | more than 7 years ago | (#19672051)

Oh God, what's happening in Science world these days. Its just unbelievable

liquify other hydrocarbons? (4, Interesting)

uncreativ (793402) | more than 7 years ago | (#19672121)

wonder if it could be used to convert coal to a liquid hydrocarbon--would make the US the new saudi arabia for oil considering our huge coal deposits.

people into ... sperms and eggs? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19672227)

Imagine if someone turned it onto a person a la James Bond and the big fucking laser. Turn people into sperms!

Re:people into ... sperms and eggs? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19672309)

I'll have the sperm, sperm, sperm, egg, and sperm please.

Additionally (1)

fishthegeek (943099) | more than 7 years ago | (#19672263)

There is an un-expected upturn in the market for really really giant bags of microwave popcorn.

boom (1)

srhill (877324) | more than 7 years ago | (#19672345)

Isn't a giant microwave full of gas really just a big bomb?

Be carefull... (1)

Ekhymosis (949557) | more than 7 years ago | (#19672379)

Or the Bush Administration might make war on Firestone/Michelin/Bridgestone as well...

This could only be the work of... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19672409)

Dr Evil!

oops (1)

nanosquid (1074949) | more than 7 years ago | (#19672427)

Just like the 2450MHz frequency magnetron in your kitchen microwave oven which is specific to water (H2O) molecules

The 2.45GHz frequency isn't "specific to water": water doesn't have a resonance there, and it will heat many other kinds of molecules.

I'm not sure how much I'd trust the rest of their process if they don't even seem to understand how microwave ovens work.

So What If?!? (1)

White Salamander (960068) | more than 7 years ago | (#19672455)

If we microwave oil, will we get Dinosaurs?!?

At long last. (1)

MHPanruka (966194) | more than 7 years ago | (#19672487)

Finally a Mr.Fusion now where's the hover conversions?! And monkey butlers!

Problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19672521)

Am I the only one who forsees problems with a giant superpowered microwave full of fossil fuels?

Hawk-10 business model (1)

CaptainNerdCave (982411) | more than 7 years ago | (#19672531)

1) build miniature hawk-10 with household items
2) get free aol cd's
3) convert aol cd's into raw materials
4) solve world energy problems
5) profit!

we're saved! screw middle-east oil!

on a less serious note... just imagine what could be done to a pickle with one of those!

metal sparks (1)

revolu7ion (994315) | more than 7 years ago | (#19672541)

"Take a piece of copper wiring," says Meddick. "It is encased in plastic - a kind of hydrocarbon material. We release all the hydrocarbons, which strips the casing off the wire." Not only does the process produce fuel in the form of oil and gas, it also makes it easier to extract the copper wire for recycling.
Haven't you ever put aluminium foil in a microwave? So there's oil, gas... AND SPARKS?!?!
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