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Developments To Watch
FOUND: THE MISSING LINK FROM GARBAGE TO POWER PLANT
Researchers have long struggled to convert garbage into fuel pellets that could be burned with coal to generate electricity. But two roadblocks arose. Systems to separate recyclables such as plastic and glass from combustible garbage were poor at best. And fuel pellets often broke up in transport and rarely stayed intact if stored for long periods.
In recent years, steady technological gains have largely solved the first problem. So researchers at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois tackled the second. After testing 160 chemical stabilizers, they found that adding calcium hydroxide to the mixture hardened pellets enough that they could be transported without problems and stored for three years without decomposing. Tests show that the newly reformulated pellets, when burned with coal, cut acid-rain emissions up to 25% vs. coal burned alone. What's more, the pellets cost 30% less to produce than coal. Because the black stuff has a higher energy output, a likely fuel mixture is 20% pellets, 80% coal. In November, Edison (N. J.) recycler Catrel USA Inc. licensed the technology and says the pellets will be widely used by 1995.EDITED BY ROBERT BUDERI