No matter their size or purpose, health-care facilities have two things in common: they generate lots of waste and consume huge amounts of energy. Disposing of contaminated medical waste is an expensive and growing problem for hospitals and research labs, with incineration now banned and landfilling options limited to facilities in Utah or Texas. But a process under development by a company co-founded by an architect may offer a solution.
In the next 18 months, Medergy Corporation of San Francisco expects to embark on projects at two hospitals to demonstrate how an existing but little-used process called “steam reformation” can detoxify contaminated and hazardous medical waste on-site. Medergy was founded by Derek Parker, FAIA, director of Anshen+Allen Architects of San Francisco, with chemical engineer and entrepreneur Terry Galloway.
Medergy’s demonstration projects would feed up to 4 tons of medical waste a day into rotary kilns, which are steam-heated at 1,900 degrees Fahrenheit. The high temperature alters the chemical composition of the waste, reducing its weight by 80 percent and rendering it inert. The process produces a hydrogen-rich gas, known as syngas, that can power fuel cells, which in turn could provide electricity for the medical facilities. Carbon dioxide formed during the process could be used to produce products such as carborundum for sandpaper and abrasives or aggregate for concrete and asphalt.
Full Story: Architecture Record
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