Two great high tech uses of heat remediation
A sustainable future demands a holistic approach to thermal remediation for the restoration of soils and ecosystems to their original state.
In recent years, heat treatment or thermal remediation has steadily emerged as a highly preferred high tech alternative for environment-friendly management of insect infestations as well as soil restoration. A number of recent scientific studies have now established the fact that many insect species are increasingly becoming resistant to chemical treatments. However, they are not able to survive prolonged physical exposure to extreme temperatures.
Before deep-diving into the advantages of this pest management technique, it is useful to gather some basic information about thermal remediation. In terms of selection pest management procedures, there was a shift in customer preferences starting from the late 1990s.
This resulted from a global drive to replace chemical fumigation by an environmentally friendly alternative and resistance of insects towards chemicals. In the initial stages, thermal remediation was used mostly in industrial food product plants to eliminate stored product pests. Now, however, a modified process of thermal remediation is also used for residential pest control. This technique is particularly effective against bed bugs and stored product pests such as rice weevils, red flour beetles, etc.
As a Pest Control Measure
Effective heat treatment for insects demands a controlled application process involving the introduction of heat, management of airflow, and thorough monitoring. Making use of heaters, the temperature of the interior space is increased to around 50-60°C. Underexposure to such extreme heat for a long duration, hidden pests are not able to survive physically, regardless of their life stage. After reaching lethal temperature, custom-designed fans are used to circulate the hot air throughout the space. This ensures that the insects can’t survive even by hiding in challenging spots such as crevices and cracks.
Temperature sensors are placed strategically all over the space to monitor remotely and ensure that the required temperature is achieved in all target areas. These temperature sensors can be monitored by the technicians on their computers from a distance of 250-300 meters from the treatment zone. At the conclusion of the treatment, some of the advanced systems also provide automatically generated temperature overview reports.
Treatment of Contaminated Soils
Heat treatment plays an important role in the remediation of soil contaminated by hydrocarbons. One of the most serious global environmental problems today is the petroleum contamination of soil. Different thermal technologies are used to remediate contaminated soil, removing 99% of many different fractions of hydrocarbons.
- Thermal Desorption: Heat is applied to soil to desorb or volatilize hydrocarbons and the two categories of this technology are low and high-temperature thermal desorption.
- Smoldering: This is a flameless process of combustion where the contaminants are converted into heat, carbon dioxide, and water. This eliminates the requirement of additional fuel for remediation.
- Incineration: This technology utilizes high-temperature combustion for complete destruction of contaminants present in impacted soils. Though extremely expensive, this technology is very effective in eliminating a wide range of target contaminants.
- Pyrolysis: This process involves heating soil to a temperature of 400–1200 °C in anoxic atmospheres, for the removal of different types of hazardous wastes.
Vitrification: This technology delivers extremely high temperatures in the range of 1600–2000 °C to convert the contaminants into a solid by melting and fusing them. This process is particularly effective for the removal of hazardous inorganic wastes.
- Microwave or Radio Frequency Heating: This technology desorbs and volatilizes hydrocarbons with low molecular weight to improve bio-availability and decrease viscosity.
- Hot Air Injection: This is an effective technology for bioremediation, and can be applied to all types of hydrocarbon contaminants, including crude oils, light fuels, creosotes, and much more.
- Steam Injection: Used frequently as a standalone technology or in tandem with remediation techniques to enhance the rate of biodegradation of the pollutants.
Most of these technologies require high treatment temperatures, making thermal remediation of soil an expensive affair. Secondly, at such high temperatures, the minerals and organic matters present in the soil may decompose. Therefore, a sustainable future demands a holistic approach to thermal remediation for the restoration of soils and ecosystems to their original state.
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