A US $5 million, city-bus-size microwave oven that Global Resource Corp. (GRC) is building for an auto recycler on Long Island, in New York, is slated to give the TV dinner treatment to 6 million tires this year. The machine will turn the tires and other hydrocarbon-based scraps, like the plastic and vinyl in a car, into fuel. The process is simple: As the tires melt down, their chemical bonds are broken and they release hydrocarbon gases, some of which can be condensed into diesel fuel. The rest can be burned like natural gas.

A single tire can yield nearly 4 liters of diesel, about 1.5 cubic meters of combustible gas and more than 3 kilograms of carbon coke, which can be used in pigmenting plastic or making new tires.

Keep Reading ↓ Show less

Stay ahead of the latest trends in technology. Become an IEEE member.

This article is for IEEE members only. Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions

Practical Power Beaming Gets Real

A century later, Nikola Tesla’s dream comes true

8 min read
This nighttime outdoor image, with city lights in the background, shows a narrow beam of light shining on a circular receiver that is positioned on the top of a pole.

A power-beaming system developed by PowerLight Technologies conveyed hundreds of watts of power during a 2019 demonstration at the Port of Seattle.

PowerLight Technologies
Yellow

Wires have a lot going for them when it comes to moving electric power around, but they have their drawbacks too. Who, after all, hasn’t tired of having to plug in and unplug their phone and other rechargeable gizmos? It’s a nuisance.

Wires also challenge electric utilities: These companies must take pains to boost the voltage they apply to their transmission cables to very high values to avoid dissipating most of the power along the way. And when it comes to powering public transportation, including electric trains and trams, wires need to be used in tandem with rolling or sliding contacts, which are troublesome to maintain, can spark, and in some settings will generate problematic contaminants.

Keep Reading ↓ Show less