Mr. Fusion? No, Mr. Pringle

Imagine a future where you can just throw old plastic containers and punctured tires into a microwave and turn them into oil. Sounds insane, of course, and we should all be damn skeptical of this, but this guy Frank Pringle says that’s exactly what he can do. The theory is that every molecule – including the hydrocarbons that go into petroleum – has a resonant frequency. Kitchen microwaves, for example, are set to make water molecules vibrate. By adjusting the frequency of his microwave and creating a near-vacuum environment, Pringle can convert say, a tire, into 1.2 gallons of oil, 2 pounds of natural gas, and 2 pounds of steel. He’s formed a company around his new invention, Global Resource Corp., and he’s working with an Illinois company to build the first commercial version of his device, for an automotive recycling company in Long Island, NY.

My skeptic’s antennae are quivering on this one, but Pringle has been written up in Popular Science and The Philadelphia Inquirer, and apparently the Department of Energy is starting to look into his process. If it works – if the process isn’t massively polluting, or have some other unintended consequence – then he may have the ultimate two-birds-one-stone process, converting our waste back into its component parts. This won’t actually solve the impending global warming disaster, but who could object to this form of recycling? At least we can stop the expansion of the North Pacific Trash Gyre.

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4 Responses to Mr. Fusion? No, Mr. Pringle

  1. Sam says:

    Even if it works (and I am suspicious), does it use more energy than it produces?

  2. As long as the net loss isn’t too bad, there is value in getting rid of used tires and unrecyclable plastic. But my “too-good-to-be-true” meter goes BOINK at this, too.

  3. Eric Wolff says:

    I cross posted this with my work blog (as I occasionally do) and a physicist posted to say that theoretically it makes sense. Though he also asked about the energy question.

  4. Eric Wolff says:

    Actually, I found an answer to our questions in the Popular Science article: “Every hour, the first commercial version will turn 10 tons of auto waste—tires, plastic, vinyl—into enough natural gas to produce 17 million BTUs of energy (it will use 956,000 of those BTUs to keep itself running). ”

    That’s pretty efficient, even if it is mostly theoretical. I still await real world results.

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