Research to Counter the Waste of Resources
Research teams from the Universities of Bochum (RUB) and Magdeburg, Germany, want to develop computer simulation models for particle production processes that have so far been difficult to control and are very energy-intensive. The aim is to more precisely calculate the use of material and energy in inaccessible production processes such as the manufacture of ceramics in high-temperature furnaces.
As part of a Collaborative Research Centre approved by the German Research Foundation (DFG) with almost 10 million euros, around 40 scientists from the engineering sciences, computer science and physics will work together over the next four years to develop computer simulation models and then validate them using new experimental measurement methods.
In thermal production processes like those that take place in furnaces during the further processing of ores and building materials or the production of steel, but also during coffee roasting or the drying of tablets, the particles of the raw materials, foodstuffs or medicines to be processed are moved and a gas flows through the bulk material. The chemical reactions triggered by the flow are used to further process the particles.
Taking a glance into the oven
"The calculations of the chemical reactions between the particles and the gases have great weaknesses and are only very vague. There is still a lot of trial and error," spokesperson of the association, Prof. Dr. Viktor Scherer, Chair of the Department of Energy Plant Technology at RUB, describes the problem.
This means that the potential of the processes is not fully exploited, they are suboptimal and there is a loss of product quality, for example in the degree of roasting of coffee beans, energy consumption and the use of fossil resources. The reason for the lack of insight was, on the one hand, the sheer size of the production facilities and, on the other, the high temperatures of up to 2000 °C. This makes measurements difficult or even impossible. Scherer continues: "So we know exactly what goes into the oven and we know pretty well what comes out of it. But now we want to finally take a look inside".
In order to achieve this goal, the two research teams are pursuing a new approach for the first time: they are coupling numerical calculations and computer-based simulations with innovative experimental measurement techniques in order to subsequently verify and validate the calculations. The challenge in the exact mathematical description of the processes in high-temperature closed systems is to limit the computing time despite the presence of several million particles. Only then will it be possible to calculate processes in large industrial reactors. The difficulty of the subsequent experimental measurements, on the contrary, was rather due to the high temperatures of densely packed particles. "To solve this problem, we will use new and innovative measuring methods, for example radar technology, positron tomography or magnetic resonance imaging," says Scherer.