Browse Publications Technical Papers 2001-01-2349

A Prototype Pyrolyzer for Solid Waste Resource Recovery in Space 2001-01-2349

Pyrolysis processing is one of several options for solid waste resource recovery in space. It has the advantage of being relatively simple and adaptable to a wide variety of feedstocks and it can produce several usable products from typical waste streams. The objective of this study is to produce a prototype mixed solid waste pyrolyzer for spacecraft applications. A two-stage reactor system was developed which can process about 1 kg of waste per cycle. The reactor includes a pyrolysis chamber where the waste is heated to temperatures above 600°C for primary pyrolysis. The volatile products (liquids, gases) are transported by a N2 purge gas to a second chamber which contains a catalyst bed for cracking the tars at temperatures of about 1000 °C −1100 °C. The tars are cracked into carbon and additional gases. Most of the carbon is subsequently gasified by oxygenated volatiles (CO2, H2O) from the first stage. In a final step, the temperature of the first stage can be raised and the purge gas switched from N2 to CO2 in order to gasify the remaining char in the first stage and the remaining carbon deposits in the second stage. Alternatively, the char can be removed from the first stage and saved as a future source of CO2 or used to make activated carbon. The product gases from the pyrolyzer will be rich in CO and cannot be vented directly into the cabin. However, they can be processed in a shift reactor or sent to a high temperature fuel cell. A control system based on artificial neural networks (ANNs) is being developed for the reactor system. ANN models are well suited to describing the complicated relationships between the composition of the starting materials, the process conditions and the desired product yields.


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