An supercritical water oxidization (SCWO) digester, as the name implies, uses the solvent properties of highly-oxygenated water at or above its supercritical point to break down waste materials into safer, more inert forms. SCWO digesters are often known colloquially as "chippers" in Cobalt Protectorate space, as they are typically integrated with chemical Auto-Factory which package the useable products into the resource chips which fuel the manufacturing-based Protectorate economy.
Mechanics & Inner Workings
The core of a SCWO digester is a pressurized chamber coated with extremely heat- and corrosion-resistant materials. The material to be digested is pushed into the chamber, which is subsequently flooded with water and oxidizing compounds. The chamber is then pressurized and heated vigorously to push the water into a supercritical state, whereupon it gains some of the properties of both liquid and vapor while also gaining new solvent properties. Over time, the waste materials are thoroughly sterilized and broken down into inert gasses and oxidized ash, which can then be disposed of in a variety of manners as appropriate. Typically, the exhaust stream of a SCWO digester is fed to some kind of fractionation system to separate out any useful materials so that they can be distributed to auto-factories or used as fertilizer in closed ecological life support systems.
Aside from a digester's daily utility, the funerary practices of the Evermornan people aboard space habitats of all sorts have adapted to include the use of a digester. The religion of Ancestral Patronism holds that life and death form a constant cycle. While one's spirit may remain to watch over one's family on a higher plane of existence, it also remains with the family in the form of the body's contribution to the clan's soil. Over time, the materials which make up a person - physical, philosophical, social, and metaphysical - return to the natural cycle, playing an important role in the continuation and propagation of life thereafter. This should be understood less as a form of reincarnation (Patronists do believe in an afterlife) than as the belief that it is a moral good to make for oneself a legacy worthy of oneself, one's family, and one's clan. As such, when an Evermornan dies in a space habitat, they will almost always have their remains cremated in an SCWO digester once any investigation, organ donations, and possible vetting for a HLAI template have been completed. The resource chips produced from the resulting ashes are then gifted to the deceased person's family (or, for those with no next of kin, the clan from which they originated) so that they can become fertilizer for the hydroponics systems of the survivors.
SCWO digesters are almost universal in Protectorate settlements and spacecraft above a certain size. For example, the ESCI Revelation has twelve 'municipal' digesters the size of commercial dumpsters for solid waste and numerous 'infrastructure' digesters for handling liquid and pulverized waste.