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New technology could cut ceramics industry energy costs by 30 percent

03 May 2013

A kiln piloting revolutionary technology that could cut energy costs for the ceramics industry by up to 30 per cent is about to be unveiled.

The equipment could help UK producers reduce carbon emissions at the same time as increasing profits and employment; experts also believe there could be benefits for sectors that use advanced ceramics, such as healthcare.

Materials technology business Ceram has finished building the kiln at its Stoke-on-Trent headquarters after winning about £2.5m from the government’s Regional Growth Fund last year.

Previous research and laboratory trials found ways of reducing the temperature at which ceramics need to be fired. Now Ceram’s Low Energy Firing Project team has built a 25-metre-long commercial-scale kiln to develop the technology further.

The kiln will be officially unveiled on May 15. 

Ceram project manager, David Pearmain said their is the potential to reduce firing times as well as temperatures, so the advantages could be very significant for the sector. 
Testing will start this month, with the first commercial-scale results being made available before the end of the year. Dr Pearmain again:

“We’ve invested a significant amount of our own money in the Low Energy Firing Project. The kiln we have designed is unique, and we believe there are potential spin-offs for other industries.

"Making ceramics is really energy intensive, and the sector is under a lot of pressure to cut consumption because of costs and environmental regulations. We’re very hopeful that the Low Energy Firing Project will help ceramics firms do exactly that.”

The UK ceramics sector – including the materials supply chain – employs about 20,000 people and generates almost £2bn in sales, much of which comes from exports. The industry's energy bills can account for up to 35 percent of production costs.  

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