The purpose of this module is for you to learn about different thermal conversion techniques and to ultimately perform basic waste combustion calculations. Information provided in this module describes different municipal solid waste thermal conversion processes, information about worldwide implementation of thermal conversion processes, and emissions from these processes. In addition, a framework used to perform basic waste combustion calculations is provided.

Thermal conversion of municipal solid waste is the use of heat to rapidly transform wastes into fuels, byproducts and/or power. These processes are often used for waste reduction, energy production and recovery, and diversion of wastes from landfills, representing a potentially important component of integrated waste management systems. The first incinerator in the United States was built in 1885. As of 2017, there are 86 incineration facilities in the United States that process over 28 million tons of waste. Waste combustion or incineration is the most commonly practiced thermal conversion process. Other thermal conversion processes that are being studied to process municipal solid waste include pyrolysis, gasification, and hydrothermal carbonization. This module contains information, web links, and activities that will provide the student an in depth understanding of thermal conversion of wastes.

By completing this thermal conversion module, you will be able to:

  1. Define thermal conversion and be familiar with waste to energy processes being conducted around the world.
  2. Understand and describe how waste characteristics influence thermal conversion processes.
  3. Differentiate among types of thermal conversion processes.
  4. Describe the basic concepts associated with waste incineration including combustion control, system components, and air pollution concerns.
  5. Perform basic combustion calculations, including computing the composition of flue gas (as a function of waste heat value and composition), temperature of flue gas (as a function of waste heat value and composition), and the amount of air required (as a function of waste heat value and composition).

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