The concept sounds like spinning fabric out of thin air, but the science is rock solid. Catalyx Nanotech, Inc., a relatively new player in the nanomaterials market, has completed its pilot project to manufacture nanofibers from landfill gas, using a patented cracking process to break down methane into soot free elemental carbon and hydrogen. Based on Catalyx’s success with a similar production facility in Canada, it appears that yet another way to recycle old landfills is right around the corner.
Catalyx Nanotech and Landfill Gas
Catalyx Nanotech chose sustainable landfill gas for a nanofiber feedstock in order to distinguish itself from other companies in the hotly competitive nanofiber market. The pilot project was located at a California landfill, using the same unit that had been performing Catalyx’s production operation in Burnaby, Canada. The Canadian facility used natural gas as the feedstock. According to a statement by Catalyx Nanotech founder and chairman Juzer Jangarwala, the landfill gas pilot “performed as expected,” showing that the process yields consistent results and produces high quality, uniform nanofibers regardless of a significant level of impurities in the landfill gas feedstock. In addition, waste gas from the Catalyx unit is recovered and reused, rather than flared. The information from the pilot will be used to scale up the process to commercial production.
Low-cost Nanofiber Production, Low-Cost Hydrogen
Even with the nonrenewable feedstock used at its Canadian facility, Catalyx Nanotech offers a price point ranging from 50 – 80% less than competing materials, an achievement the company attributes to its one-step patented cracking process. Catalyx also notes that aside from elemental carbon, the only other byproduct of the process is hydrogen. The opportunity to site production facilities at nearby landfills could make a significant dent in the cost of hydrogen, about half of which is associated with transportation.
Nanofibers and Landfills
Nanofiber production joins a growing list of applications for landfills that were undreamed of just a generation ago. Landfills have been converted to parks, strained for leachate to fertilize biofuel crops, and tapped for energy to generate electricity. As a sustainable, low cost source for elemental carbon and hydrogen, landfills are once again proving that one person’s trash is another’s treasure.
Image: D’Arcy Norman on flickr.com.
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