06 December 2023
Organizing transportation in a more sustainable way without building new roads
The awarded research involves Metalot, RIFT, Shell and EIRES. It focuses specifically on the regeneration of burned iron powder, also called iron oxide.
Iron powder can store energy in a very compact, cheap, safe, environmentally friendly and CO2-free manner. This combination makes it a promising solution for greening energy-intensive industry and, for example, coal and power plants. Science financier NWO, together with involved organizations, is therefore making 900,000 euros available for research into the possibilities of iron powder as an energy carrier on an industrial scale. Joining the research - taking place under the name CIRCL, Closing the Iron Reduction-Combustion Loop - are Metalot, RIFT, Shell and EIRES.
Niels Deen, professor of multiphase and reactive flows at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, is leading the research. He is very pleased with the award. "It was the second time we applied for this grant, so we have been eager to start this for over a year," explains Deen who credits the entire team that shaped the grant application.
Besides himself, the team consists of Giulia Finotello (associate professor at Mechanical Engineering), Ivo Roghair (associate professor at Chemical Engineering & Chemistry) and Martin van Sint Annaland (professor at Chemical Engineering & Chemistry).
The research focuses specifically on the regeneration of burned iron powder, also called iron oxide. What exactly is that like? Burning iron powder releases energy in the form of heat. Heat that can be used to heat houses in a green way - and on an industrial scale, for example. The residual product released during combustion is iron oxide. This can be recaptured and converted into iron powder with hydrogen derived from green electricity, for reuse. This creates a sustainable cycle, with iron as a green energy carrier.
Deen and his colleagues focus on the step from iron oxide back to iron powder. His team collaborates with TU/e spin-off RIFT, which has built a production plant in Arnhem that includes a so-called fluidized bed furnace into which iron oxide is poured.
Deen explains: "What we want to do is develop computer models and see if we can find the sweet spot in the regeneration of burnt iron. For example, high temperatures are beneficial because then you can convert more iron oxide, but at too high temperatures, for example, the particles become sticky and start sticking together."
He continues: "There is a tension between those. We are also going to look at what the design of a fluidized bed should look like. High and narrow, or just low and wide. It's a great project, my hands are itching to get to work with the team!"
The NWO Applied and Technical Sciences domain awarded funding to a total of seven application-oriented research projects through the Open Technology Program in September 2023. The total amount involved is 5.8 million euros. In addition, companies and other organizations involved are investing approximately 950 thousand euros in the projects.