Laser-Induced Destruction of Hazardous Chemicals

A Preliminary Analysis

by Paul F. Morrison, Kathleen A. Wolf


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The increasing reliance on various chemicals in all facets of society has led to a very high level of annual atmospheric emissions. Many of the emitted chemicals are dangerous; some may deplete the protective ozone layer, others contribute to photochemical smog, some are carcinogenic or mutagenic. Methods for minimizing the emissions of hazardous chemicals are actively being sought by U.S. government agencies, especially the Environmental Protection Agency. This study is an initial analysis of a novel technique for decomposing certain dangerous chemical gases before they are released to the atmosphere. Decomposition of these gases would be accomplished with a carbon dioxide laser. Photodissociation in specific cases would generate products that are less dangerous than the original chemical. The method appears promising as a means of reducing the deleterious effects of certain widely used industrial chemicals.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Note series. The note was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1979 to 1993 that reported other outputs of sponsored research for general distribution.

This research in the public interest was supported by RAND, using discretionary funds made possible by the generosity of RAND's donors, the fees earned on client-funded research, and independent research and development (IR&D) funds provided by the Department of Defense.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.