Albin Czernichowski, a professor at the University of Orleans in France has developed a small, low-tech, inexpensive device called a "GlidArc reactor" that produces super-clean fuels from waste materials, such as a biodiesel fuel that releases ten times less air pollution than conventional diesel.
The reactors, about the size of a refrigerator, are custom designed to clean dirty gases produced by a low-tech gasification of locally available wastes, biomass, or other resources. For example, corn farmers could use the leaves and stalks left in the field after harvest (called "corn stover") as the raw material or waste cooking oil from restaurants could be used as the raw material in urban areas. They can also be used to convert glycerol, which is a major byproduct of biofuel production and is expensive to refine, into carbon monoxide and hydrogen for use as a fuel.
According to Professor Czernichowski, the GlidArc reactors are low-tech and low cost. "Almost all the parts could be bought at your local hardware or home supply store. We use common ‘plumber’ piping and connections, for instance, and ordinary home insulation. Instead of sophisticated ceramics, we use the kind of heat-resistant concrete that might go into a home fireplace. You could build one in a few days for about $10,000."
The reactors get their name from the use of a gliding arc of electricity to that produces a plasma inside the reactor. The plasma allows chemical reactions to occur at dramatically reduced temperatures. Gases from heating biomass or glycerol become clean and chemically active, and this allows for the transformation of those materials into clean fuels.