Military bases generate a large quantity of material that is sent off-base as waste. These materials could be used for power generation; however, the current technology for conversion of waste to power (incineration) generates pollutants such as dioxins and furans, acid gases, and hazardous particulates.

Nitrification to convert medical waste to high-energy-content syngas and vitrified solid has been demonstrated. However, detailed evaluation of this process has shown that it cannot efficiently utilize the waste to generate excess power. General Atomics is developing a new process called Vitracycle that replaces the inefficient electrically powered plasma arc with a torch that is sustained by recycling the carbon in the waste until it is converted to syngas.

The heart of the General Atomics Vitracycle process is a chemical reactor that breaks down mixed solid waste into separate recyclable streams of syngas, metal, and glass. The metal and glass form a molten two-phase liquid at the bottom of the reactor that promotes a stable temperature profile and is removed from the reactor periodically to limit accumulation. The syngas, which is a mixture of carbon, methane, carbon monoxide, and hydrogen, exits the reactor and is cleaned to remove and recycle the carbon and to further remove acidic components that form while processing certain wastes. Subsequently the cleaned syngas is used to fuel a specialized generator to recover the energy from the waste. The Vitracycle system uniquely solves the problem of how to efficiently recover the energy from the fine carbon dust formed in the reactor to improve the economic viability of the overall process. This is accomplished by removing the carbon dust from the syngas produced and using it to fuel a carbon burner that maintains the high temperature in the reactor. Thus, energy from the waste fuels the disposal of the waste, and excess energy is exploited as clean syngas that is used to produce power. A pilot system was assembled for testing.

Vitracycle Reactor and Evaporative Cooler

Carbon Burner Hopper and Feed