Plasmalysis to Treat Wastewater

Hanke
Jens Hanke explaining the workings of the Plasmalyzer® container.

Plasma physics plays only a minor role in research in Germany. There are some niche market applications for it, such as coating plastic bags or cutting electrically conductive material. But the daily work of most German engineers and technicians doesn’t involve the fourth state of matter. Now that Graforce unveiled a new unit called plasmalyzer at a press conference on Oct. 17, 2018, in Berlin, interest in this field of physics may be on the rise again. The system, which uses wastewater as a reagent, produces hydrogen with the help of ionized gas, with the product reportedly being capable of driving LNG vehicles. So, how does it work?

Plasma is not a solid or a liquid. But it is not a gas either. In a phase diagram, it will show up at the point where all three states of matter meet, which is why it is sometimes referred to as the fourth state of matter. Probably the most well-known example of it is the sun, which is essentially an ionized, extremely hot ball of plasma. High pressure is what keeps the star from turning into a cloud of gas. But what exactly does plasma or a plasmalyzer do?

Hydrogenics

What is a plasmalyzer?

Plasma is a mixture of charged particles, such as ions and electrons. To generate it artificially, a high voltage can be applied between an electrode and a liquid, resulting in a strong electric field. Particles are excited across the field when they collide. “Millions of times per second, there will be a change from negative to positive and back again,” Jens Hanke, Graforce’s founder and chief executive, said at the press conference. A particle that hits the molecules in the upper layer of the liquid will break the molecular bond between two atoms if its kinetic energy exceeds the electrostatic force that binds them together. According to Graforce, the strong electric field was completely harmless, since it was shielded by a metal casing.

The receivers, as Hanke calls his plasmalyzer units, did not have specific input requirements. They could process both ordinary and distilled water, and even wastewater. This approach is markedly different from, for example, that of electrolysis, which needs deionized water. Chlorine or sulfur, however, should not enter the system.

The name Plasmalyzer® and the terms “plasma electrolyzer” and “plasmalysis” were coined by Hanke himself. Strictly speaking, no electrolysis is taking place.

read more: January issue 2019

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