Ask the Cremation Doctor

The High Pressure/High Temperature Difference
February 14, 2012, 7:55 pm
Filed under: Alkaline Hydrolysis, BIO Cremation, Cremation Technology, Green, Green Cremation

Preserving the environment: it has been a vital part of Matthews’ culture for over 60 years. In keeping with our ongoing commitment to “Preserve, Protect and Educate”, we are proud to be the “Cremation Green” champion for the death care industry. Bio Cremation through Resomation is an alternative that protects our most valuable natural resources. It uses alkaline hydrolysis (heat, water and potassium hydroxide) to decompose human remains. Alkaline Hydrolysis accelerates the natural decomposition process just like the flame cremation. High pressure and high temperature (HP/HT) is used to destroy all pathogens.

Public safety is a core value for Matthews Cremation. It is imperative that legislation and/or funeral home and crematory guidelines require that HP/HT destroy all pathogens, prions and neurodegenerative diseases such as TSE and CJD. It is best to use the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) temperature requirement of 370 degrees F and hold for 30 to 45 minutes. Unlike Matthews Cremation, not all alkaline hydrolysis equipment manufacturers meet this public safety requirement.

The Launch of Bio Cremation
November 30, 2011, 7:35 pm
Filed under: Cremation Technology, Green Cremation

Today, we live in a world that encourages us to protect and preserve our natural resources. We are developing lifestyle trends that encourage behavior to lower the individual’s carbon footprint while at the same time reducing greenhouse gases and stabilizing climate change. In addition to lifestyle changes, we must consider what happens at the end of life and that transition back to earth. Environmentally focused end of life practices are growing in popularity and whether it’s a greener burial or greener cremation, we are all called to play a supportive role within our families and communities.

Since we at Matthews launched Bio Cremation (also known as Alkali Hydrolysis), I am always asked what exactly it is?  Bio Cremation is an environmentally focused alternative that replaces the use of flame with the utilization of water, blended with an alkali solution of Potassium Hydroxide (KOH ). The Human body is placed into a specially designed cremation chamber where water and alkali are added, heated and gently circulated over the body, initiating the cremation process.  The use of Alkali Hydrolysis is a proven technology, newly introduced into funeral service as an environmental alternative to traditional flame cremation. Alkali Hydrolysis uses 95% water and 5% potassium hydroxide (KOH). KOH is an alkali (not acid), inorganic compound that is used in numerous health and beauty cosmetics, soft soaps and cleaning supplies you would commonly find at home. This sterile process prevents the release of emissions (carbon monoxide, particulates, mercury). This more eco-friendly process offers distinct environmental advantages even beyond traditional flame cremation. For more information, please visit us on Facebook at and our consumer web site at

Steve Schaal
President – North America Region
Matthews Cremation

The Problem With Pouches
October 22, 2010, 8:20 pm
Filed under: Cremation Technology, Green Cremation

For various reasons, bodies sometime arrive at the crematorium in a plastic pouch. This can be problematic for the operator as the high BTU content in plastic can release a lot of energy, causing excess heat and smoke. Now normally, these pouches are 2–4 mils thick (roughly the thickness of a balloon) and because of the low volume of the material, it usually won’t require any special precautions. The case can be cremated with the same settings as those used for a cardboard container.

Thicker pouches of 4 mils or more, such as those used by the military, are an exception. Heavy pouches cremate at an unusually fast rate due to the high BTU content of the pouch itself. Therefore, it is necessary to cremate a heavy pouch the same way you would a large body, even if the body itself is of an average size. Use the timer settings and operating sequence outlined for large bodies. Following this general rule of thumb will help to keep your retorts running clean and efficiently.

One way to take much of the guesswork out of any case is to equip your retort with intuitive logic controls (IPC). Matthews Cremation Division offers the M-Pyre Advanced Control Panel. All you need to do is provide answers to the following questions:

  1. What kind of container are you using?
  2. What is the weight of the body?
  3. What is the gender?
  4. What is the case number of the day?

Based on these parameters, it will set up your retort for the cleanest and most efficient burn. Additionally, it performs a continuous self-diagnostics and will alert the operator if any corrective action is needed. For further information, please visit our M-Pyre page.