Iron powder can replace coal and gas in industry
The Dutch plant is testing a new heating system that uses pure iron powder as fuel instead of fossil fuels.
Under normal conditions, it is very difficult to set fire to a large piece of iron, but if it is crushed to a state of dust, the oxidation process will increase significantly. At the same time, in the process of burning iron, more energy is released than from the same volume of gasoline, and the only by-product is rust. However, due to its high density, its specific combustion energy is much lower, which does not allow using this method to power a car or housing, but the powder is well suited for industry.
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Some manufacturing processes require the use of fuel because electricity cannot produce heat efficiently enough. However, countries around the world have begun to actively fight fossil fuels and environmental pollution, and hydrogen requires special storage conditions and is an explosive substance. Therefore, scientists from the Technical University of Eindhoven have developed a system that allows the use of iron powder for this purpose.
Together with Swinkels Family Brewers and the Metal Power consortium, they have created a pilot plant and recently launched it at the Dutch Bavaria brewery. In it, in the process of combustion, iron releases thermal energy, which is directed to the production processes of the plant. After oxidation, the metal turns into rust, which is collected for reuse after being reduced with hydrogen.
Researchers are currently testing three different powder recovery technologies at different temperatures to determine the most effective option. This process is energy-consuming, therefore electricity and hydrogen obtained from renewable sources are used to power the reactor. In this case, most of the input energy will be released during the subsequent combustion of the reduced iron dust.
Similar heating systems can also be installed on cargo ships or used to modernize existing coal-fired power plants, scientists say.
As a reminder, the world’s first hydrogen-fueled steel plant opened in Sweden in August.
, Bart van Overbeeke / TU Eindhoven, video: YouTube / TU Eindhoven