Microwave plasma conversion of volatile organic compounds

Youngsam Ko, Gosu Yang, Daniel P Y Chang, Ian M. Kennedy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


A microwave-induced, steam/Ar/O2, plasma "torch" was operated at atmospheric pressure to determine the feasibility of destroying volatile organic compounds (VOCs) of concern. The plasma process can be coupled with adsorbent technology by providing steam as the fluid carrier for desorbing the VOCs from an adsorbent. Hence, N2 can be excluded by using a relatively inexpensive carrier gas, and thermal formation of oxides of nitrogen (NOx) is avoided in the plasma. The objectives of the study were to evaluate the technical feasibility of destroying VOCs from gas streams by using a commercially available microwave plasma torch and to examine whether significant byproducts were produced. Trichloroethene (TCE) and toluene (TOL) were added as representative VOCs of interest to a flow that contained Ar as a carrier gas in addition to O2 and steam. The O2 was necessary to ensure that undesirable byproducts were not formed in the process. Microwave power applied at 500-600 W was found to be sufficient to achieve the destruction of the test compounds, down to the detection limits of the gas chromatograph that was used in the analysis. Samples of the postmicrowave gases were collected on sorbent tubes for the analysis of dioxins and other byproducts. No hazardous byproducts were detected when sufficient O2 was added to the flow. The destruction efficiency at a fixed microwave power improved with the addition of steam to the flow that passed through the torch.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)580-585
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of the Air and Waste Management Association
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry


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