MADISON, Pa. – General Motors Corp.'s role in helping Coskata Inc. bring its next-generation cellulosic ethanol to market traces back a quarter of a century to technology developed for a GM iron foundry in northwest Ohio.
Coskata announced Friday that its pilot plant will be located at the Westinghouse Plasma Center in Madison, the current site of a pilot-plant gasifier.
Gasification is the first step in Coskata's process to make ethanol out of practically any renewable source. Plasma torches are used to super heat source material, such as agricultural and municipal solid waste, to 1,600 degrees Fahrenheit, which creates a synthesis gas comprised of carbon dioxide and hydrogen.
The gas is cooled to about 100 degrees Fahrenheit and then is consumed by Coskata's patented microorganisms, which excrete ethanol and some water.
In 1983, the GM Central Foundry Division collaborated with Westinghouse Electric Corp., later known as Westinghouse Plasma Corp., and others to develop a high-volume plasma torch furnace, called a plasma arc cupola, that could more flexibly produce molten iron used to make automotive engine blocks, crankshafts and brake components.
GM's first application of plasma torch technology was in 1989 at its foundry in Defiance, Ohio, where it is still used today.