Petroleum is composed of strings of hydrocarbon molecules. When microwaves hit the tire, they crack the molecular chains and break it into its component parts: carbon black (an ash-like raw material) and hydrocarbon gases, which can be burned or condensed into liquid fuel. Pringle figured that some gases from his microwaved tire had lingered, and the cold air in the shop had condensed them into diesel. If the process worked on tires, he thought, it should work on anything with hydrocarbons. The trick was in finding the optimum microwave frequency for each material—out of 10 million possibilities.
10 years later, he says he’s done it. He calls it “microwave gasification technology.” 20 pounds of used tires can produce 50 cubic feet of natural gas and 1.2 gallons of diesel. And it also works on water bottles, shopping bags, Barbie dolls… anything you can imagine that’s made of hydrocarbons. Anything plastic.