The same process that illuminates big-screen plasma TV’s can now create ultra-clean fuels, according to a scientific report presented earlier this week. According to Prof. Albin Czernichowski from France’s University of Orleans, a device called a GlidArc reactor has successfully been used to create clean fuels from waste materials, utilizing electrically-charged clouds of gas called “plasmas.” One of the fuels is a form of diesel that reportedly releases ten times less air pollution than conventional diesel.

The GlidArc process takes its name from a gliding arc of electricity, that produces a plasma within the reactor. The plasma allows chemical reactions to take place at much lower temperatures than would otherwise be required - one of these reactions is the gasification of locally-available waste, biomass or other substances. The resultant clean mix of carbon monoxide and hydrogen gas can then be synthesized into biofuel.

The report suggests that the refrigerator-sized reactors could be fed materials such as post-harvest corn leaves and stocks, waste cooking oil from restaurants, or even the byproduct glycerol created in the production of other biofuels. The GlidArc-created biofuels could apparently be used in existing diesel, gasoline or kerosene engines, with no modifications.

“Low-tech and low cost are the guiding principles behind the GlidArc reactors,” stated Czernichowski. “Almost all the parts could be bought at your local hardware or home supply store. We use common ‘plumber’ piping and connections, for instance, and ordinary home insulation. Instead of sophisticated ceramics, we use the kind of heat-resistant concrete that might go into a home fireplace.” He added that an average person could build one in a few days, for about $US10,000.