Heat Pipes Smash the Mold for Tile Manufacturer
Heat pipe technology is fueling a new generation of low-energy, low-emissions kilns to recast Europe’s ceramic industry into a model of sustainability.
From tile and tableware to sanitaryware, Europe makes one-quarter of the world’s ceramics, representing €30 billion (approximately $39.8 billion) a year and employing 240,000 people. Downsides include the industry’s thirst for thermal energy, vast energy waste and CO2 emissions. According to results from a £5 million (~ $6.6 million) project, however, a heat pipe exchanger installed at a working tile factory in Pavullo, Italy, has resulted in large-scale savings on energy, costs and emissions.
The H2020 DREAM project (Design for Resource and Energy efficiency in cerAMic kilns) added new industrial heat pipes to a new-generation roller kiln at Mirage Granito Ceramico S.p.A. Monitoring over six months has shown that the heat pipe system has helped cut emissions by 205.5 Mt a year and saved £28,000 (~ $37,000) a year.
“We installed a system that is the first of its kind in this industry,” said flat heat pipe system designer Hussam Jouhara, professor at Brunel University London. “The system itself didn’t impact the factory’s day-to-day running. It is invisible to the process. All it does is save them money and energy. We are recovering about 360 MJ of energy each working hour, and this is offsetting heat that would otherwise come from burning natural gas in a stage that dries raw materials.”
Heat pipes transfer waste heat from the post-firing cooling process to be reused to warm air for the dryer, which runs at about 200°C. This heated air can also be recycled to feed the kiln’s burner and centrally heat the factory.
Tests in the factory show the heat pipes heat exchanger recycles this waste heat 25% more efficiently than conventional heat exchangers. Figures reportedly show manufacturers could make their money back in savings within two years of installing the heat pipes heat exchanger.
“This innovative idea designed by Brunel is implemented in a real environment in the ceramic industry,” said Jouhara. “It’s money-saving, clean and with lower carbon emissions from burning less fossil fuel. Therefore, it reduces the overall carbon footprint of the factory. As a result, it generates profit, giving the end users a competitive advantage, which allows them to increase their profit margins. It also puts the end users in a stronger position in the industry and enables them to generate higher level of growth within the market.”
For more information, visit www.spire2030.eu/dream. The project is funded by Europe’s Horizon 2020 fund. Organizations involved include: Sacmi Forni S.p.A., Italy; Asociacion de Investigacion de las Industrias Ceramicas (AICE), Spain; Universita degli studi di Modena e Reggio, Emilia, Italy; Econotherm (UK) Ltd., Bridgend, UK; Synesis-Societa’ onsortile a responsabilita’ limitata, Italy; Forschungsgemeinschaft Feuerfest e.V., Germany; Rath GmbH, Germany; Brunel University London, UK; Centro di Ricerca e Innovazione Tecnologica s.r.l., Italy; Keraben Grupo S.A., Spain; and Mirage Granito Ceramico S.p.A., Italy.