General Atomics was awarded a contract to develop and build a solid waste-to-energy converter under the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Mobile Integrated Sustainable Energy Recovery (MISER) program. The goal of the MISER program is to develop a standalone system capable of converting paper, plastic, and food waste into power. The MISER system is envisioned as a means of destroying Army packaging and food waste in the field, thereby reducing logistical costs associated with transporting large amounts of waste material out of military zones. The MISER system is designed to fuel its own operation in addition to producing net power output.
The first phase of the GA MISER program, successful production of 5 kW net power from waste plastic, has been completed. The next phase of the program, scale-up to a 60 kW net power unit, is now in progress. Future phases will focus on processing paper and food waste in addition to plastic.
The GA MISER system uses supercritical water to convert organic material into a high quality fuel gas comprised of primarily methane, ethane, and hydrogen. The fuel gas has an energy density of over 1000 BTU/ft3, equal to that of natural gas. The fuel gas is fed to a commercial generator (reciprocating or turbine engine) for electrical power production.
The MISER system utilizes a number of novel technologies to keep parasitic power requirements low in order to produce net electrical power. These include a waste feeder, which transports solid waste directly into the high pressure reactor to eliminate energy-intensive pre-processing. Additionally, tight heat integration and waste energy recovery from the engine generator exhaust eliminate the need for electric heaters.