Plastic to oil fantastic

by Carole Smith – Ourworld 2.0

Due to exceptional circumstances, we are republishing the present story about an exceptional innovation. Over a year after it was originally published, this video brief about the invention of a plastic-to-oil converting machine recently got a viral boost and exceeded 115,000 views on YouTube.

This is evidence that concern over “the plastic problem” is certainly not going away, despite encouraging bans on and decreases in the use of plastic shopping bags.

Here on Our World 2.0, on the video’s YouTube page and those of re-posters too, as well as on the hot Reddit Science link, the topic has generated much interest and debate amongst commenters.

Many think that this type of recycling is not a solution, but that instead the world should be seriously focused on the first “R” — which is reduce. We should shun single-use plastic (such as your average PET bottle or disposable container) altogether, they argue. The world’s oil resources are diminishing; does technology like this enable our denial of that fact, or is it a hopeful and constructive step in the right direction?

Others have concerns about pollution or toxic residue from the conversion process. Blest tells us that, if the proper materials are fed into the machine (i.e., polyethylene, polystyrene and polypropylene — PP, PE,  PS plastics), there is no toxic substance produced and any residue can be disposed of with regular burnable garbage. They also explain that while methane, ethane, propane and butane gasses are released in the process, the machine is equipped with an off-gas filter that disintegrates these gases into water and carbon.

Lastly, commenters from around the world are anxious to know if and where they can purchase a machine. Though the company still mainly produces larger, industrial-use machines, Blest Co. will be more than happy to hear from you. Please contact them directly at info@blest.co.jp.

We are all well aware of plastic’s “rap-sheet.” It has been found guilty on many counts, including the way its production and disposal raises resource issues and lets loose extremely negative environmental impacts.

Typically made from petroleum, it is estimated that 7% of the world’s annual oil production is used to produce and manufacture plastic. That is more than the oil consumed by the entire African continent.

Plastic’s carbon footprint includes landfilling and incineration, since sadly, its recycle rate is dismally low around the globe.

Plastic trash is also polluting our oceans and washing up on beaches around the world. Tons of plastic from the US and Japan are floating in the Pacific Ocean, killing mammals and birds. Perhaps this tragedy is best captured in the TED presentation by Capt. Charles Moore of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation.

Using less, or use it better?

Thankfully, there are those who fully appreciate that plastic has a higher energy value than anything else commonly found in the waste stream. A Japanese company called Blest created a small, very safe and easy to use machine that can convert several types of plastic back into oil.

If we burn the plastic, we generate toxins and a large amount of CO2. If we convert it into oil, we save CO2 and at the same time increase people’s awareness about the value of plastic garbage.
—Akinori Ito, CEO of Blest.

Though Japan has much improved its “effective utilization” rate over the years to 72% in 2006, that leaves 28% of plastic to be buried in landfills or burned. According to Plastic Waste Management Institute data, “effective utilization” includes not just the 20% that is actually recycled, but also 52% that is being incinerated for “energy recovery” purposes, i.e., generating heat or electric power.
“If we burn the plastic, we generate toxins and a large amount of CO2. If we convert it into oil, we save CO2 and at the same time increase people’s awareness about the value of plastic garbage,” says Akinori Ito, CEO of Blest.

Blest’s conversion technology is very safe because it uses a temperature controlling electric heater rather than flame. The machines are able to process polyethylene, polystyrene and polypropylene (numbers 2-4) but not PET bottles (number 1). The result is a crude gas that can fuel things like generators or stoves and, when refined, can even be pumped into a car, a boat or motorbike. One kilogram of plastic produces almost one liter of oil. To convert that amount takes about 1 kilowatt of electricity, which is approximately ¥20 or 20 cents’ worth.

The company makes the machines in various sizes and has 60 in place at farms, fisheries and small factories in Japan and several abroad.

“To make a machine that anyone can use is my dream,” Ito says. “The home is the oil field of the future.”

Perhaps that statement is not as crazy as it sounds, since the makeup of Japanese household waste has been found to contain over 30 % plastic, most of it from packaging.

Continually honing their technology, the company is now able to sell the machines for less than before, and Ito hopes to achieve a product “that any one can buy.” Currently the smallest version, shown in the videobrief, costs ¥950,000 (US $9,500).

Changing how we think
But it is the educational application of the small model of the machine that Ito is most passionate about. He’s taken it on planes on many occasions as part of a project that began some years ago in the Marshall Islands. There he worked with local government and schools to teach people about recycling culture and the value of discarded plastic, spreading the Japanese concept of mottainai, the idea that waste is sad and regrettable.

In such remote places, the machine also serves as a practical solution to the plastic problem, much of it left behind by tourists: the oil produced is used for tour buses or boats, Ito says.

Plastic’s carbon footprint includes landfilling and incineration, since sadly, its recycle rate is dismally low around the globe.

“Teaching this at schools is the most important work that I do,” Ito reflects. In Japan too, he visits schools where he shows children, teachers and parents how to convert the packaging and drinking straws leftover from lunch.

If we were to use only the world’s plastic waste rather than oil from oil fields, CO2 emissions could be slashed dramatically, he says.

“It’s a waste isn’t it?” Ito asks. “This plastic is every where in the world, and everyone throws it away.”

A mountain to climb down
The wonderful invention of plastics has spawned a huge problem that we are struggling to solve. With peak oil looming, things are set to change, but we find ourselves on top of an oil and plastic mountain, and the only way forward is down.

So while many solutions like this are not without hiccups or detractors, they are a step forward in coming to terms with our oil and plastics dependence and help raise awareness of the carbon footprint of its production and use. Somehow we all know that plastics is a habit we need to kick. But that doesn’t seem to make it any easier.

Perhaps the best thing you can do is to look more deeply into this issue. A good place to start is the 2008 Addicted to Plastic documentary from Cryptic Moth productions. You can watch the trailer online and maybe request it at your local video rental store.

According to the blurb, “the film details plastic’s path over the last 100 years and provides a wealth of expert interviews on practical and cutting edge solutions to recycling, toxicity and biodegradability.”

Next it is just a matter of taking action to break our love affair with plastic.

Detecting Double Layers

Thunderbolts.info

Something in this galaxy started sending out powerful radio waves a year ago and has been holding steady ever since.

Energy emissions in radio wavelengths are shining from a source in galaxy M82, otherwise known as the Cigar Galaxy. The fact that nothing like it has ever been seen before has created something of a stir among astrophysicists, according to a recent press release.

Galaxy M82 (NGC 3034). X-ray: NASA/CXC/JHU/D.Strickland; Optical: NASA/ESA/STScI/
AURA/The Hubble Heritage Team; IR: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of AZ/C. Engelbracht

Tom Muxlow of Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics believes that the radio source could be a large black hole pulling matter into an accretion disk, where it is being accelerated to high velocities. Perhaps the strangest aspect to the phenomenon is that it appears to be moving across the sky at four times the speed of light. Astronomers do not think that the apparent motion really exceeds light speed, but that it is moving almost as fast as light at a particular angle creating an optical illusion. Some “matter jets” shooting out of active galactic nuclei also seem to travel faster than light, so Muxlow thinks that effect could be happening in M82.

An electric current in plasma generates a magnetic field that will constrict the current flow. As has been pointed out in previous Picture of the Day articles, the constricted channel is known as a Bennett pinch, or z-pinch. The “pinched” filaments of electric current remain coherent over large distances, spiraling around each other, forming helical structures that can transmit power through space.

Plasma physicists identify those threads of electricity in almost every body in the Universe. The cometary “tail” of Venus is “stringy” as NASA scientists describe it. The glow of planetary nebulae resolve into strings and intricate webs. Herbig-Haro stars and some galaxies often reveal braided filaments. These filaments are Birkeland currents, and they are only the visible portions of enormous electric circuits. The remainder of the galactic circuit generates magnetic fields that can be mapped, as in the case of M82.

High-density currents flow out along the galactic spin axis and form double layers that can sometimes be seen as radio and X-ray lobes around active galaxies. The currents then spread out around the circumference, returning to the core along the spiral arms. Every element in a galactic circuit radiates energy, indicating that they are powered through coupling with larger circuits. Galaxies appear to occur in strings, so the extent of the larger circuits can be inferred.

Plasma’s behavior is driven by conditions in those circuits. Fluctuations can form double layers with large potential voltages between them. The electric forces in double layers can be much stronger than gravitational and mechanical forces. Double layers separate plasma into cells and filaments that can have different temperatures or densities.

Double layers emit radio waves over a broad band of frequencies. They can sort galactic material into regions of like composition and condense it. They can accelerate charged particles to cosmic ray energies. Double layers can explode, releasing more energy than is locally present. This effect can be seen in stellar flares or so-called “nova” outbursts.

This vision of the cosmos sees various components coupled to and driven by circuits at ever larger scales. Electrons and other charged particles accelerating through intense electric fields radiate “shouts” of energy in many bandwidths. Changing conditions within the Birkeland current generators of some galaxies means that the radiation patterns will change over time. M82 is probably demonstrating those changing conditions.

Stephen Smith

Eternal sunshine? Scientists create technique to delete traumatic memories

By DAILY MAIL REPORTER

Researchers have found a way of permanently deleting painful memories, which they say could lead to drugs for post-traumatic stress disorder.

A team at John Hopkins University in the U.S removed a protein from the region of the brain responsible for recalling fear in tests on mice. The mice were then unable to recall fear associated with a loud sound.

Science-fiction could soon be reality after researchers found a way to delete painful memories. The concept was explored in the film Eternal Sunshine Of A Spotless Mind where Jim Carrey (pictured) and Kate Winslet decide to erase each other from their memories after a difficult break-up.

The method is similar to that imagined in the film Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, where Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet decide to erase each other from their memories after a difficult break-up.

The scientists, whose report appears in Science Express, said it had important implications for patients whose lives were blighted by fear.

Lead researcher, Dr Richard L Huganir, said: ‘When a traumatic event occurs, it creates a fearful memory that can last a lifetime and have a debilitating effect on a person’s life.

‘Our finding describing these molecular and cellular mechanisms involved in that process raises the possibility of manipulating those mechanisms with drugs to enhance behavioural therapy for such conditions as post-traumatic stress disorder.’

Behavioural therapy has been shown to ease the depth of the emotional response to traumatic memories, but not in completely removing the memory itself, making relapse common.

Dr Huganir and post-doctoral fellow Roger Clem focused on the nerve circuits in the amygdala, the part of the brain known to underly so-called fear conditioning in people and animals.

Using sound to cue fear in mice, they observed that certain cells in the amygdala conducted more current after the mouse was exposed to a loud, sudden tone.

They found temporary increases in the amount of particular proteins – the calcium-permeable AMPARs – within a few hours of fear conditioning that peaked at 24 hours and disappeared 48 hours later.

These particular proteins are uniquely unstable and can be removed from nerve cells.

Dr Huganir said: ‘The idea was to remove these proteins and weaken the connections in the brain created by the trauma, thereby erasing the memory itself.’

In further experiments, they found that removal of these proteins depended on the chemical modification of the GluA1 protein.

Mice lacking this chemical modification of GluA1 recovered fear memories induced by loud tones, whereas litter mates did not recover the same fear memories.

Dr Huganir suggests that drugs designed to control and enhance the removal of calcium-permeable AMPARs may be used to improve memory erasure.

Dr Huganir said: ‘This may sound like science fiction, the ability to selectively erase memories.

‘But this may one day be applicable for the treatment of debilitating fearful memories in people, such as post-traumatic stress syndrome associated with war, rape or other traumatic events.’

This study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1325834/Eternal-sunshine-Scientists-technique-delete-traumatic-memories-good.html#ixzz14IhhD6mZ