From Plastic and Biomass Refuse to Oil

 , By Ronald Howard Livingston
on Monday, July, 18 2011 11:56:00 pm   , 829 words  
Categories: Uncategorized , 67839 views

Over the last few years, as costs of motor fuels climb ever higher and as concerns grow over the carbon footprint of waste products ranging from sewerage to plastics, the process of thermal depolymerization (the breakdown of complex  macromolecules which consist of repeating structural units into monomers or simple molecules capable of bonding to form polymers) has been increasingly applied as a solution for dealing with waste and thus has been increasingly in the news.  Through pyrolysis (the decomposition or transformation of certain compounds using heat in the absence of oxygen), polymers can be broken down and made available for reformulations.  Anhydrous pyrolysis which takes place in the absence of water is generally referred to simply as pyrolysis. (An industrial process for making charcoal from wood is an example.) The process of hydrous pyrolysis uses water in breaking down polymers into monomers.  Though plastics and waste-biomass pyrolysis will not take the place totally of petroleum drilling and refining for acquiring components for polymers for fuels and manufacturing, such recycled use will reduce the negative environmental impacts of these organic wastes. One tremendously important positive of depolymerization of plastics, for example, through pyrolysis is the elimination of CO2 and toxin emissions in their utilization as fuel.

Recently reported in the news and the subject of a YouTube sensation was the creation and use of a safe and effective relatively small machine that converts plastics to oil useable as a simple fuel for stoves and generators. This same oil can be refined for use as motor fuel.  The company that has developed and manufactures the machine (Blest Company of Japan) makes one of its machines available at about $12,700 (U.S.). This small machine is the one demonstrated in the YouTube video which at this writing has had 1,689,345 views. YouTube lists other videos on this particular machine and several more on the process it uses in general.

A similar process (using infrared energy for heating the plastic waste) is utilized by Envion which has established a $5 million facility opened in September of 2009 in Montgomery County, Maryland. The plant is capable of processing 6,000 tons of plastic annually into about one-million barrels of a light crude oil. Blended with other components the product can be sold as diesel or gasoline.

Researchers at the University of Warwick in Coventry, United Kingdom, have developed a process utilizing pyrolysis wherein various types of plastics can be broken down into a number of useful components, retrievable mostly through distillation. Processing plants envisioned by the Warwick researchers are projected to be able to deal with 10,000 tons of plastic waste per year and be very commercially profitable.

Not only plastics can be transformed into monomers for commercial purposes through thermal depolymerization but biomass as well. One of the most innovative uses of the technology is in the conversion of plant and animal refuse into oil. A commercial processing plant has been built by Renewable Environmental Solutions near the ConAgra Foods Butterball turkey plant in Carthage, Missouri, to process slaughter waste. ConAgra produces about 200 tons of waste daily from the slaughter of 30,000 turkeys. The thermal depolymerization plant built nearby is a joint venture of ConAgra and Changing World Technologies (CWT) of West Hempstead, New York. Estimates are that the plant can convert the waste into 500 barrels (21,000 US gallons) of oil daily.

Thermal depolymerization process (TDP) has been considered as an alternative for sewerage treatment in the United States, according to a 2007 article in USA Today.  Similarly,  a University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign) research team, lead by Yuanhui Zhang, an agricultural engineering professor there, has been able to produce oil from hog manure through the use of a small-scale thermochemical reactor. Heat and pressure applied by the reactor decompose the long-chain hydrocarbons into shorter ones, rendering oil, methane, carbon dioxide, and water.  As the price of a barrel of imported oil gets higher, the more economical the production of thermal depolymerization of hog manure becomes, not only rendering valuable fuel but saving farmers an expensive waste-elimination problem and saving the environment from pollution. It is estimated that during the production cycle of one pig enough manure is excreted to be converted into 21 gallons of crude oil.

One of the limitations to the economic efficiency of the process of thermal depolymerization is the lack of sufficient cheap feedstocks. Agricultural plant and animal waste is often utilized in fertilizer, feeds, and feedstock for other industries. The current trend to develop and exploit certain high yield energy crops holds potential as feedstock for thermal depolymerization process oil.

The benefits of producing oil through thermal depolymerization are many. Besides the production of oil, there is the rendering of useful and mostly valuable by-products. To these benefits the positive environmental effects of utilizing and diminishing pollutants from our landscapes, our oceans, and our landfills can be added.  While the industry is not without some criticism, these negative concerns are mostly aimed at the environmental effects of human industrial activities in general.


[This article first appeared on Xomba in February 2011.]

What to Do for the Sleep You Deserve

 , By Ronald Howard Livingston
on Friday, July, 08 2011 04:40:00 pm   , 1056 words  
Categories: Uncategorized , 110290 views

Part 3 [Part 1 , Part 2]

Except for times like my recent* bout of fibromyalgia (or whenever I inadvertently come into contact with the compounds I've been describing), I really have little trouble falling asleep---which is not to say that I always retire early and follow a rigid sleep schedule. Sleep for me now is more a matter of my desire or need for it.

Although I have some things I do to fall asleep fast or to reset my biological clock from time to time, by in large such steps are no longer a big concern for me now. About the most effective thing I do now if I'm not drifting off to my satisfaction is to take a spoonful of honey. Sounds almost silly and just too darn simple, but it does work, quite well in fact. Honey contains several forms of very simple sugars (chiefly fructose and sucrose), and sugars are soporifics (anything which causes sleep). True, sugars are important energy foods, but their soporific effect is felt by the body way before the sugars reach the cells where they are metabolized to release energy [1].

Angelic* noted that chamomile is a very popular herb in Greece and something she takes to help her fall asleep. It's a natural sleep aid I've used for years, but the taste is kind of strange. It has a scent like apples, but I swear I detect a taste or smell of old inner tube as well. I put a spoonful of honey in it (or if I don't have it, just regular granulated sugar---which is also soporific).
Something that I often take with the chamomile tea (that is, mixed into it) is a few drops of valerian root extract. I like the extract much more than the capsules because the latter upset my stomach. So I get the effect of three sleep aids all in one cup (chamomile, valerian, and sugar or honey). (I worry a bit about the sugar and so brush my teeth with a bit of baking soda, which leaves no residue that I can't tolerate, as would fluoride, which I mentioned was one of the compounds that caused me sleeplessness. Also, I don't miss using fluoride anyhow, because a lot of people are still convinced that it is carcinogenic. I'm not arguing either way, but I'd rather err on the side of caution.) When I don't have any chamomile to put the valerian root extract in, I put a few drops into half a glass of Sprite or 7-Up. It doesn't exactly "dissolve" well throughout (as it does in the tea), but I just drink it on down anyhow. Incidentally, 7-Up was reformulated in 2006 when calcium disodium edta was taken out (hooray!) [2].

Shelli* mentioned aromatherapy, and sent a website url [3] for some articles on aromatherapy and lists of scents popular for thus treating insomnia. I've never tried any of the scents mentioned therein, but I do recall trying one (probably real unusual) thing that I had heard about on t.v., and it worked: onions. (Yep, sounds silly, but I took a little piece of an onion to bed and just sniffed it every now and then and darn if I didn't dose right off.) A bit of internet research just now reveals that Pliny the Elder wrote about the value of onions in inducing sleep [4].

Another often recommended tip for falling asleep is to drink warm milk (hmm, wonder why it has to be warm?---yuk!). Drinking a bit of milk has helped me, but because I have acid reflux and am a bit lactose intolerant (must be the Cherokee in me!), I really need to be careful (and it is thus something I wouldn't recommend---ever woke up choking on stomach acid in the middle of the night?---scary). Milk has calcium which has a calming effect on the body. It also has tryptophan (as do foods such as brown rice, peanuts, turkey, and soy [5]---the last of which I am sensitive to, in spite of its having something useful for sleep) which is well known to have a calming effect (in fact, L-tryptophan tablets were a quite popular in the late '70's and early '80's before some glitch in their manufacture caused health concerns about taking them.)

Tish* commented on the hormone melatonin and its role in establishing and maintaining the circadian rhythms of the body. She pointed out that it is made in the brain by the pineal gland. There melatonin is created from the amino acid tryptophan in the synthesis of serotonin. Interestingly, serotonin deficiency is associated with several disorders including fibromyalgia, migraine headaches, and tinnitus. Serotonin plays an important role in the regulation of sleep [6]. Tish also pointed out that because melatonin is made by the pineal gland, it is made available for sale in a natural form (made from the pineal glands of animals) and a synthetic form. I share her concerns about taking the natural form due to possible viral contamination.

Lastly, speaking of circadian rhythms of the body (basically the body's "clock"), there is a condition, known as S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as winter depression), that affects some people north of 30-degrees N latitude and south of 30-degrees S latitude. It is a depression related to the limited amount of daylight and also to lower amounts of melatonin and serotonin. Sunlight produces in humans a form of Vitamin D (called solitrol) which is more effective than the form found in milk and fish. This form, solitrol, is involved antagonistically with melatonin in producing changes in mood and maintaining circadian rhythms. So, especially in winter, it is very important that we spend time (even during cold spells) outside so that our skin can produce in abundance the form of Vitamin D we need to set and maintain our "body clocks." Staying indoors frustrates that rhythm [7]. One need not be out in open sunlight, but really in winter that shouldn't be much of an issue---it's not like your going to get burned to a crisp as you would on a beach in mid-summer.









*This part of this series on insomnia and sleep first appeared on February 7, 2007, as a blog entry in my Y!360 social-networking blog. Names cited herein are of contacts who had commented to part 2. [Part 1 , Part 2]

Mr. Sandman Revisited

 , By Ronald Howard Livingston
on Saturday, July, 02 2011 08:41:00 pm   , 1279 words  
Categories: Uncategorized , 25436 views

(Part 2 of 3) [Part 1 , Part  3]

In the previous segment of this article on insomnia, I mentioned food ingredients that cause me to not be able to fall asleep. Briefly, here are a few comments about each ingredient I mentioned earlier, as well as two I forgot to list, BHA and BHT.

Anything processed and preserved potentially can have chemicals that I really shouldn't have.
For example: Grocery stores used to have meat cutters (they were regarded as expensive, mostly union, labor) so, anymore, stores like Wal-Mart buy meat already cut but preserved in or with chemicals called sodium phosphates. I'm not a vegetarian, but I don't eat as much meat as I used to, mostly because you can't get really fresh and wholesome meat anymore. I buy meat only at stores that hire meat cutters and get their meat as carcasses and cut it there in the store. It's fresh meat, not preserved. At Wal-Mart you'll see meat that is real, real red and in little sealed "caskets," with cellophane stretched real tight across the top (like a drum), and you'll see that sodium phosphate solution at the bottom, under the meat. Sodium phosphates (mono-, di, and tri-) are used for a variety of industrial purposes. As I recall, their use in foods began about when sodium nitrate was found to be carcinogenic and banned from use in food. Sodium phosphates are commonly found in processed meats and baked goods. They are found in some brands of baking powder. Trisodium phosphate (TSP) is available in most hardware stores in crystalline form, for use as a de-greaser and cleaning agent to prepare surfaces for painting (yummy!)

MSG (monosodium glutamate) is put in lots of foods: mostly in processed meats and baked goods. It is a taste enhancer to make people think the food is actually better than it really is (like cooks who over-salt their bad cooking, or use too many spices). Some people call MSG an "excitotoxin."

Calcium Disodium EDTA and Disodium EDTA are used to make vegetables in cans have the color they had before they were cooked and canned! The canners seem to think people will like their veggies better if they don't look so cooked. (Strange, but I always like my cooked food to look cooked!)

TBHQ (tertiary butyl hydroquinone), BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole), and BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) are antioxidants used to make crisp foods (like cookies and crackers) not go stale. (I believe they used to put this stuff in the cardboard around the food instead of in it!)

Speaking of antioxidants, some vitamins that are antioxidants (namely Vitamin C) are put into foods in huge quantities. Some fruit juices have so much that one serving (an average sized drinking glass) has 70 to 100% of the vitamin you'd need for a whole day! Just what you need right before turning in for the night! Some cereals are so over-saturated with supplemental vitamins that they are even advertised as such: for example, (being silly here) "New!: Complete Cereal---one bowl has more vitamins than you'll need in ten lifetimes!"

I avoid taking any kind of minerals or vitamin supplements in the evening. A zinc tablet at night will be a sure ticket to insomnia. Ditto, a magnesium tablet. (I take the latter because coastal Texas water is soft water, and people in areas with hard water tend to, on average, live longer considerably. Also, magnesium chelates the blood so that one doesn't get calcium kidney stones, a problem I've had in the past. Incidentally, soy can lead to kidney stones, another reason to avoid it.) I think one's body in the late evening tries to slow down the metabolism, and any strange dosage of anything, even natural (but large amounts of) nutrients, just revs it back up. (I can't even eat an orange close to bedtime because it just has too much of a Vitamin C kick. Ditto with cranberry juice!)


Transdermal reactions:


Bizarre food ingredients are not the only elements involved in my insomnia. I have identified several things that affect me merely by skin contact. I have found that shampooing my hair at night is a surefire way to loose sleep. The problem largely is all the weird chemicals in most shampoos, but I even have the problem when I wash my hair with a very plain clean-rinsing soap. So I "theorize" that somehow just the removal of the body oils on the skin somehow causes some sort of transdermal effect of soap, so I wash my hair in the a.m., so that by night whatever the effect from washing it, it will be abated by bedtime.

I have found that highly perfumed laundry detergents cause me problems, so I wash my clothes in as plain a detergent as possible, one that is free of perfumes or dyes. I also don't use fabric softeners (these are loaded with perfumes). I'll stay out of a room that has been sprayed with air fresheners until the smell dies down, so that I won't be breathing perfumes into my metabolism. (I prefer to "freshen" the air inside with just good ol' clean air through open widows and vacuuming.)
I don't pump gas at night. If I get a wiff while I'm pumping it, I can count on a sleepless night. Diesel: I can't get it on me any at all after noon. If so, I can't wipe or wash it off fast enough. No sleep! (Hmm, I wonder about biodiesel?)

Over stress of delicate nerves (neck, shoulders, wrists, fingers) is another way to scare away the sandman. I pointed out my problems with fibromyalgia in an earlier blog.* There are several interconnections with that condition, my insomnia, and tinnitus (ringing in the ears). In fact, I get tinnitus when I've eaten the wrong things (the aforementioned things). Sodium phosphates...tinnitus. Soy...tinnitus. Work too much on the computer...tinnitus. It's all very consistent. Whenever I've eaten something I shouldn't have or got something on me I shouldn't have, like diesel, I get tinnitus. I get tinnitus and insomnia when I've stressed delicate nerves too much. This is one reason I don't hold a book at night when I'm reading. I'll either read it flat or prop it up on my chest with the blanket. Also, weird, I read at night with cotton gloves on so as not to get transdermal soy inks into my bloodstream. I have a set of The New Handbook of Texas, in which I have eight articles published. (My ancestor, William C. Gill, was at the Battle of San Jacinto. I'm seventh generation Texan. My family has been right here in this and an adjacent county since 1831.) If I so much as touch those books, I don't sleep! (So, at night if I am researching, I go online to look up stuff that's in books right there at the head of my bed!)

Some people suggest weird stuff like don't listen to the world's problems on t. v. or radio before you go to sleep. I really don't think emotions (except in really extreme cases) keep us up. In fact, t.v. and, to a lesser extent, talk (i.e., snooze) radio just lull me right to sleep. People seem to have the cart before the horse: they stay up "worrying" about stuff because there's nothing much else to do if they have insomnia (HELLO!). That doesn't mean that what they think about is what is keeping them up; it's all the environmental and physical factors such as I've listed.

Continued (Next time: Things I take when I have a bit of trouble falling asleep...yep Chamomile tea...!)


*This article first appeared on February 4, 2007, as a blog entry in my Y!360 social-networking blog.


[Part 1 , Part 3]

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