Lunar Organic Waste Reformer
The Lunar Organic Waste Reformer (LOWR) utilizes high temperature steam reformation to convert all plastic, paper, and human waste materials into useful gases. In the LOWR, solar thermal concentrators are used to heat steam directly to 900 C, after which the steam is injected into a reactor which is being fed with waste materials via a lock hopper. At the high temperatures, the steam will react with all organic materials to produce a gas mixture largely composed of hydrogen and carbon dioxide, with small fractions of methane and CO. After removing the remaining steam from the product stream via condensation, the gases are dusulfurized and then fed through a polysulfone membrane which separates CO and CH4 in the retentate from CO2 and H2 in the permeate. The retentate CO/CH4 gas stream can be used to reduce regolith, while the CO2/H2 permeate stream is sent to a Reverse Water Gas Shift (RWGS) reactor which transforms the CO2/H2 gas into CO and H2O. The CO can then be used for regolith reduction, while the H2O can be used as is, or electrolyzed to make oxygen and hydrogen. With effective recycling of the steam, no consumables are lost in the process. All products are liquids or gases, making the system highly reliable and subject to automation. In the proposed Phase 1 program, Pioneer Astronautics will build on its extensive heritage with development of RWGS and regolith reduction systems developed for Lunar and Mars in-situ propellant production to build and demonstrate a LOWR unit.
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