Zero-discharge Decisive Destruction of Chemical and Biological Toxins by Supercritical Water Oxidation (SCWO) Process


Water at its supercritical conditions (T>374 °C and P>218 atm) has exceptional properties that are ideal for zero-discharge complete-oxidation process. The supercritical water oxidation (SCWO) process is an ideal process that can be used to detoxify poisonous materials as well as contaminated articles, parts, and soils. The rationale is based on the following:

(1) SCWO is effectively applicable to all chemical and biological sources and origins. Terrors involving chemical and biological means can take a variety of forms of unlimited kinds and variations. As far as chemicals are concerned, they can vary from very hazardous like nerve gas, mustard gas, or phosgene, to mild like household paint thinners or concrete cleaners. As for biological toxins, millions of different kinds and strains including anthrax can render both short- and long-term threats. They often can be unclassifiable, blended, or secondarily formed. Even though threats posed by each chemical and biological toxic material differ based on the types, amounts, and application modes, the supercritical water oxidation process decisively works for all of these chemical and biological materials, even in mixed forms. The final SCWO products are completely combusted nontoxic materials such as H2O, CO2, and salts such as chloride, nitrate, and phosphate.

(2) Ohio University's process unit can be efficiently installed in a mobile truck. Since the supercritical water oxidation process is operated in a condensed phase and the reaction rate is very fast, the process is volume-efficient. Further, the process does not involve any secondary treatment of discharge materials and therefore all the process units as well as the analytical equipment required for the operation can be installed in a mobile trailer. This mobile treatment concept is ideal, since the treatment unit can be promptly moved to a troubled site (including war zones) and toxic materials do not need to be transported to a stationary treatment site. This advantage may be very important in the strategy of counterterrorism and disaster relief.

(3) The process works for both toxic chemicals and contaminated articles. Unlike most other chemical processes, this process works for both toxic chemicals (and microorganisms) and contaminated articles. This process can be very effectively used for decontamination of soil, including anthracis-contaminated soil.

(4) The process is energy efficient. The reaction involved in the SCWO process is exothermic in nature. The thermal energy needed to maintain the reaction conditions is partly provided by this exothermic heat.

Our research team has pioneered various novel process developments using supercritical fluid technology and received a number of U.S. Patents. Specific applications developed by the team using supercritical fluid technology include complete decontamination and detoxification of toxic chemicals, controlled combustion, soil remediation, coal desulfurization, polymer degradation, low-temperature blending, polymerization in supercritical fluids, graft copolymerization, and powder coating. Our lab has six supercritical mini-pilot and pilot systems in operation.

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