(303d) Process Analysis of Continuous Catalytic Gasification As a Waste to Energy Alternative

Authors: 
Lang, M., Cleveland State University
Matrona, M., Cleveland State University
Lange, E., Cleveland State University
DeMattia, B., Cleveland State University
Obiako, U., Cleveland State University
Gatica, J. E., Cleveland State University
Reyes, K., Cleveland State University
Presently, space exploration waste is either carried onboard for the duration of the mission or discarded into a trash module which is sent back into Earth’s atmosphere for destruction. On the other hand, with an estimated cost of $10,000 per pound, the cost of delivering mass to locations beyond low earth orbit (LEO) locations is prohibitive.

Since approximately 15 pounds of waste are produced daily by a crew of four during a mission, the intrinsic value of this waste can be greatly enhanced by waste to energy technologies. Moreover, conceptualizing waste gasification as an in-situ alternative for processing of trash is also an efficient route to control waste, while maintaining a healthy habitable environment, during long-duration missions (Santiago-Maldonado et al., 2010).

The gasification of long-chain polymers is hypothesized to follow a mechanism of four combined reactions—two parallel oxidation reactions which are kinetically controlled, accompanied by two series reaction where oxidation products (carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide) are converted into methane and hydrogen. Integrating this process into spaceflight missions would greatly reduce the onboard mass requirements, as these products can be used as propellant fuel. Further, under certain conditions the process could be also be adapted to produce oxygen and water, two essential life support species for space missions.

This paper explores scale-up alternatives to implement low-temperature continuous gasification processes as potential waste management processes. A kinetic model formulated from batch gasification experiments is integrated into a process simulator along with a detailed thermodynamic description.

Emphasis is placed on the preparatory treatment of the waste slurries, the reactor module, and equilibrium stages for recycling reactants and recovering the catalyst. Detailed characterization of low and mid fidelity simulants is presented.