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Energy Intensive Industries to reduce their environmental impact

The production of steel, aluminium automotive parts or ceramic tiles is particularly energy intensive. Temperatures in the range of 800 ºC and 1200°C are needed, which has not only cost implications, but also leaves a considerable carbon footprint. Now, a group of researchers and industry experts have joined forces in the European Research Project ETEKINA to investigate how this thermal energy could be recovered in an efficient and cost effective way using the heat pipe technology.

“Heat Pipes are at the core of our technology, as they manage to tackle the problem heads on”, says Sam Jouhara, scientific co-ordinator of the project, who is based at Brunel University London in the UK. “The heat pipe transfers thermal energy passively from a hot to a cold stream by a boiling condensation cycle inside a hermetically-sealed metal tube. This way, the heat transfer from the hot area to a cold part of the pipe can be achieved very efficiently”, he explains. In the ETEKINA project, the idea is to combine many such heat pipes to create a heat exchanger design according to the specific needs of each production plant. The challenge: within the production lines of steel, aluminium automotive parts or ceramic tiles, there are many chemical processes and exhausts that could possibly damage the system. So, the engineers need to find the right set-up and select the right materials for the heat pipes so that the thermal recovery will work efficiently within the temperature range applied. Moreover the re-use of the recovered heat in the recipient processes keeping the quality of the produced parts, while improving the energy efficiency and thus reducing its cost is also a challenge. Bakartxo Egilegor, coordinator of ETEKINA, and physicist at IK4-Ikerlan has been able to pull together with Sam a strong consortium - and an ambitious plan: “Within the first three years, we plan to build and install three different prototypes of heat pipe based heat exchangers in three European countries: an aluminium casting facility in Arrasate, Spain, a ceramics production line in Modena, Italy and at a steel producer in Ravne na Korošken, in Slovenia. During the last year of the project, we will be monitoring and evaluating our findings, so that they can be replicated by similar plants and facilities.” ETEKINA stands for “heat pipE TECHnologies for INdustrial Applications” and has officially started in October 2017. The international consortium from five European countries have met on October 2nd and 3rd in Donostia, Spain, to co-ordinate their first actions. This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement No 768772.


energy efficiency, heat pipes, thermal recovery, industry, steel, aluminium, ceramic, ceramics, etekina, h2020ee