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What is it?

Gasification and pyrolysis processes are supported by thermal (gasification) or non-thermal (pyrolysis) plasma, which either provide energy or induce catalytic decomposition reactions for conversion of biomass or municipal waste into hydrogen and other hydrocarbons as value-added chemical materials.

In the gasification process, thermal plasma can be used to provide sufficient energy (at temperatures greater than 3000K) to break down complex hydrocarbons into simple gases, including CO and H2. In the pyrolysis process, input biomass or municipal waste can be converted into a range of output hydrocarbon gases and oils, in addition to solid char. This occurs at much lower temperatures (1000-2000K) than plasma gasification.

Why is it important?

Biomass is plentiful, regenerative and removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, making this process carbon neutral. Coupling the process with CCS has the potential to make it carbon negative. Simultaneous treatment of municipal waste is also possible.


  • Inputs: Biomass or municipal solid waste, water, electricity
  • By-products: Gasification = CO, pyrolysis = hydrocarbons, char
  • Operating temperature: Gasification = >3000°C, pyrolysis = ~1000 to 2500°C
  • Energy efficiency: ~42% for plasma gasification


  • Portable, small and low cost
  • Allows variable inputs - Can be used for the conversion of biomass or municipal solid waste
  • Highly selective catalyst
  • Safe elimination of toxic products


  • Gasification – high energy requirement to create the plasma, reducing efficiency. Efficiency has been calculated to be 42% for plasma compared to 72% for conventional gasification.
  • High capital cost

RD&D priorities

  • Develop catalysts and optimise their structures to promote H2 formation
  • Investigate the effects of rapid heating on decomposition of feedstocks
  • Develop CCUS technologies

Known active organisations

  • Queensland University of Technology
  • The University of Newcastle
  • The University of Western Australia

Other opportunities like this

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