26 November 2020
Researchers and students from Eindhoven University of Technology recently hooked up a combustion installation to a Bavaria brewery and demonstrated that iron powder can be used as circular fuel in an industrial setting.
How it works? Ground finely enough, iron becomes highly flammable. Add oxygen, and the powder combusts, producing heat. Oxygen also turns the iron into rust: the only emission in this process. That rust can then be recycled back into iron through electrolysis. If that step is done using renewable energy, the entire cycle is carbon-free.
Industrial CO2 emissions accounted for 24% of global emissions in 2018, so adopting renewable or low-carbon fuels is crucial. Unlike hydrogen — an element frequently hyped as the future of energy — iron is easy to store and abundantly available. One to look into if you produce anything on a large scale! (SOLID, the student team working on this project, is currently seeking partners to demonstrate maritime solutions, too.) For the rest of us, it's a reminder to take a critical look at our processes and figure out where we can introduce circularity. And then communicate that to our customers, of course ;-)
The TrendWatching content team
Photo by: Bart van Overbeeke