Squeeze oil and gas from junk using microwaves

Everything that goes into Frank Pringle’s recycling machine—a piece of tire, a rock, a plastic cup—turns to oil and natural gas seconds later. “I’ve been told the oil companies might try to assassinate me,� Pringle says without sarcasm.

The machine is a microwave emitter that extracts the petroleum and gas hidden inside everyday objects—or at least anything made with hydrocarbons, which, it turns out, is most of what’s around you. Every hour, the first commercial version will turn 10 tons of auto waste—tires, plastic, vinyl—into enough natural gas to produce 17 million BTUs of energy (it will use 956,000 of those BTUs to keep itself running).