Novel Low-Temperature Plasma-Catalyst Control of Dioxin & Furan Emissions from Waste Incinerators

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: Chemical and Process Engineering


More than 10 million tonnes of UK waste is incinerated in energy from waste plants each year, making a considerable contribution to UK energy demand. The emissions from waste incinerators are regulated by the Environment Agency through the Environmental Permitting Regulations which sets stringent emission limit values for a wide range of pollutants, including, particulate, VOCs, CO, HCl, HF, SO2, NOx, heavy metals and dioxins/furans. The emissions control system for waste incinerators represents a major proportion of the capital and operational costs.
The emissions of dioxins and furans from waste incinerators into the atmosphere are of considerable public, political and scientific concern. The issue around dioxins/furans is associated with their high toxicity, significant health hazard and resistance to degradation in the environment. Dioxins/furans cause damage to the human immune, nervous and reproductive systems and are also suspected carcinogens. There is consequently concern over the negative effects on human health and the environment of long-term exposure to even very small amounts of dioxins/furans.
Impending legislation under the EC Industrial Emissions Directive that will be transposed into UK Law via the Environmental Permitting Regulations has set mandatory stringent new Daily Emission Limit values for waste incinerators. Dioxin/furan emission limits are to reduced from 0.1 ng m-3 to 0.01 ng m-3 for most incinerator installations. The current most common method for control of dioxin/furan emissions uses added activated carbon reagent for the adsorption of the dioxins/furans from the flue gas followed by capture using fabric filter bags. The use of activated carbon is a high cost method and merely transfers the dioxins/furans to the flue gas control residue and subsequent disposal to high cost hazardous waste landfill.
The aim of this research proposal is to develop a novel, low cost, low temperature (~150 C), non-thermal plasma-catalyst process to decompose dioxins/furans under flue duct conditions simulating those of typical waste incineration flue gases. A complementary study using model chlorinated aromatic model compounds will aid a mechanistic interpretation of the decomposition of dioxins/furans under non-thermal plasma-catalysis conditions, aiding the development of the dioxin/furan control system.


10 25 50

Description A novel reactor system enabling the non-thermal, low temperature treatment of incinerator flyash samples containing dioxins and furans has been constructed. The contaminated flyssh has been exposed to a non-thermal plasma reaction environment under different process conditions. Analysis for dioxins and furans is ongoing.
In addition, studies on the formation of dioxins and furans from chlorobenzene, has been undertaken, under a range of different conditions of non-thermal plasma processing and with a range of different catalysts. Reactions of chlorobenzene are important because it is regarded as an important precursor for the formation of dioxins and furans.
Exploitation Route The identification of a low temperature non-thermal plasma process for eliminating dioxins and furans would have benefit to the waste incineration industry, where control of dioxins is currently an expensive process.
Sectors Energy


Description EPSRC-DTP
Amount £78,000 (GBP)
Organisation University of Leeds 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 08/2021 
End 03/2025
Description International academic forum on low-carbon technologies and sustainable development - Organised by Innovative Group of Energy Utilization and Pollution Control in Hebei Province and Hebei University, Tianjin, China 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Hebei University of Technology Tianjin, China held an online high-level academic forum on "Low-Carbon Technology and Sustainable Development" on November 28, 2021 (Beijing Time). Eight world-renowned scholars from US, UK, Canada, Australia and Japan delivered keynote speeches in the area of low carbon technologies deployment in various sectors (industry, households, transport, etc). Prof Williams was the UK representative, presenting on "Thermal Recycling of Waste to Produce Energy, Fuels, Chemicals and Materials". It was an on-line event attended by 800+ postgraduate students, academics.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021