The province of Brabant is investing one million euros in the development of an industrial application for the incineration of metal powder as an energy source. The project, which was co-focused by TU Eindhoven, will be based on the site of Metalot in Budel Dorplein.
The Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) has been working for several years on the promising technology that generates energy from the combustion of metal powder. The burning of metal powder releases a lot of heat, which can be used for steam production in industry, as an alternative to coal in coal-fired power stations and as fuel for trucks and ships. The combustion product, rust powder, is collected and can be converted back into metal powder with the help of renewable energy. In this way, the metal acts as a sustainable, circular energy carrier. In 2018, a team of TU/e students, Team SOLID, created a small-scale demonstration model that was able to burn iron powder, produce steam and generate electricity.
The burning of metal powder releases a lot of heat, which can be used for steam production in industry, as an alternative to coal in coal-fired power stations and as fuel for trucks and ships.
“In the meantime, the technique has gone beyond the lab and requires a large-scale model to demonstrate its potential,” says Philip de Goey, dean of Mechanical Engineering at TU/e and chairman of Metalot3C. This is an important step in the scaling up to a concrete application of metal powder as a source of energy for coal-fired power stations. “With this demonstration system, we want to demonstrate that large-scale combustion of metal powder, iron powder, in this case, is possible.
The research team will test the installation over the next two years. The support from the province will come in addition to the contributions already made by the business community to the project. The total budget for the project is approximately €2.4 million, half of which has been contributed in cash, the rest in hours and materials by the companies. “In all likelihood, another large party will be joining the consortium with a relevant cash contribution, but this has yet to be completed,” says Tim Spee, Power & Flow project leader at TU/e. The university conducts extensive research into metal fuels among academics, PhDs and students. An important part of this research is carried out by Team SOLID. Together with SMEs, the 22 members of the student team focus on the development of new technology, logistics, publicity and socio-economic aspects. Later this month, Team SOLID will announce which industrial party will develop a demonstration model of their initiative, in order to clarify its feasibility.
The province sees it primarily as an opportunity to gain experience in energy storage, says Commissioner Anne-Marie Spierings (Energy). “Preferably in CO2-free fuels. Metal powder seems very promising because it is easy and safe to store and transport. That is why the province invests in research and innovation in cooperation with our universities and companies.”
The ‘Metal Power’ demonstration system is the first research programme for metal and energy innovation to be established on the Metalot campus in Budel Dorplein. The Metalot Campus will be a combination of innovation, research, entrepreneurship and education in the field of energy and metals.
The partners in the project are regional SMEs such as EM Group, Romico and HeatPower, who specialise in the development and design of technical components. Larger companies such as Nyrstar, Uniper and Enpuls also contribute to the financing.