A Dutch brewery is using iron powder as fuel to demonstrate its potential use as a carbon-free power source, according to the Globe and Mail.
Since small particles of iron burn well at high temperatures, they release energy as they oxidize that can be used in industrial processes or power generation.
Swinkels Family Brewers in the Netherlands has become the first business in the world to put this process to work at an industrial scale at its Brewery Bavaria, in conjunction with the Metal Power Consortium and Eindhoven researchers, reported Globe and Mail.
Some advantages of the system include how common and affordable iron is and its energy density. Iron powder is also easy to transport and requires no special effort to store. Even further, the iron oxide waste can be collected for renewal.
“The beauty of iron fuel is that you can release the energy stored in iron fuel when and where you need it,” said TU Eindhoven professor of combustion technology Philip de Goey in a press release. “If you grind iron into a powder, it becomes highly flammable and this combustion releases a lot of energy in the form of heat. This heat can meet the industry’s energy demand.”
Two years ago, TU/e’s student team SOLID proved that it was possible to combust iron fuel in the lab.
The energy cycle efficiency of the system is dependent on the processes used to put the energy into the iron in the regeneration process. A major technical obstacle is recycling the iron without generating large amounts of carbon dioxide in the first place, according to Globe and Mail.
“There’s already a follow-up project which aims to realize a 1 [megawatt] system in which we also work on the technical improvement of the system,” said Chan Botter, leader of the Eindhoven University student team conducting the research. “We’re also making plans for a 10 MW system that should be ready in 2024. Our ambition is to convert the first coal-fired power plants into sustainable iron fuel plants by 2030.”
The cyclical iron fuel system installed at Brewery Bavaria is capable of fueling the generation of 15 million glasses a beer annually, according to Globe and Mail.