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Turning coating powder waste into useful energy

11 March 2013

Disposing of coating powder waste is expensive. However, a new combustor for powdery residues will enable companies to cut both their disposal costs and their heating costs.

A great deal of powder is needed to coat auto parts and other components – and a great deal of waste is created as only a fraction of the coating ends up on the part - the rest misses the target and has subsequently to be collected.

Recycling of residual powder has limits: if coaters reuse too much recycled powder, the quality of the coating suffers. Companies are therefore more likely to dispose of most of the waste coating powder, which is an expensive undertaking.

Now, researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Factory Operation and Automation IFF in Magdeburg have, in cooperation with an industry partner, developed a plant that enables heat to be recovered from any combustible, powdery industry waste, whether it is coating powders, polymer powders or even wood constituents. The potential savings are high: 25 percent of the natural gas usually used for heating and, additionally, 100 percent of the disposal costs are being saved at a reference facility.

The plant consists of three basic units: a pulverized fuel burner, a boiler and a filter system. Powdery waste is conveyed into the burner pneumatically, where it is agitated, brought into contact with air and burned. Water is the medium used for storing the heat produced. The flue gases are treated via the filter system.

The pulverized fuel burner is approximately 50 times smaller than conventional models with approximately two percent of their capacity. This makes the burner worthwhile for smaller quantities of waste, like those produced by small and medium-sized enterprises.

“In order to be able to compute the temperature distributions and flow paths in this small burner, we first ran CFD [computational fluid dynamics] simulations,” says project leader, Marcus Kögler.

A pilot plant, already operating at MBG Metallbeschichtung Gerstungen GmbH, has cut the company's natural gas consumption by one quarter. The company holds a patent on the process, which was granted in conjunction with this project.

The researchers from the Fraunhofer IFF customized the pilot plant specifically for the company’s requirements. Each new plant has to be modified, depending on what powder waste is being produced. The pulverized fuel burner’s combustion system and downstream filtration section have to be adapted according to the particle size.

Fraunhofer IFF experts will be available to discuss the technology at the Hannover Messe (Hall 2, Booth D18, April 8 - 12).

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