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Waste Tires May be Future Source of Synthetic Fuels

With Europe’s tire waste weighing in at millions of tons per year, and up to 70% of those used tires ending up in landfills, they’re a huge waste issue.

And putting them in the landfill may be akin to throwing away fuel, if a new recycling initiative in Europe can prove the viability of using them for new products and fuels.

According to the TyGRe project, tires have a high content of volatile gasses, so they have the potential for being used as the raw material for creating synthetic fuels (syngas or synfuel).

One current research project is working to investigate the proper method of pyrolysis of the tires to extract the gasses, as well as looking at using the resulting char as materials for other manufactured products.

According to Laboratory Equipment, silicon carbide (carborundum), in demand for both ceramics and the electronics industry, is one such material that could remain in the char.

The recovery process begins with the scrap tires (along with steam) being heated in a reactor to about 1,000 C, at which point the volatile gasses are extracted. The researchers then collect the solid carbon and introduce silicon oxide to it at high temperatures, which forms silicon carbide.

A prototype recovery plant is being built at the ENEA (Italian national agency for new technologies, energy and sustainable economic development), facility near Naples right now, and is expected to be online soon. The experimental plant could process up to 30 kg of tires per hour, and if the process is feasible, further study would be undertaken to determine the sustainability and scalability of the process.

Another effort to recycle old tires in Europe amounts to grinding them into powder through a special process (removing any textile and metal particles), and then using this powdered rubber as the raw material for making other urban products.

If we could perfect both of these processes, those millions of tires could be providing both energy and resources instead of sitting in the landfills.

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