Time for a fresh look at batch consumption

Photo: Martyn Marshall, Principal Glass TechnologistIt’s time for a fresh look at batch composition, says Martyn Marshall, Principal Glass Technologist at independent research and development, consultancy and testing facility, Glass Technology Services (GTS). Martyn explains further:

It’s almost a decade since batch composition was seriously looked at by the container and specialist glass industries, but with stringent emissions targets to be met, major advances in glass melting technology and new and novel batch techniques, it is a good time to take a fresh look.

The glass industry faces a significant challenge - to reduce CO2 emissions by around 80% by 2050 - and is looking at new ways to revisit decade-old ideas to meet it. Two radically new technologies have been developed, which offer the potential to revolutionise our industry.

GTS is at the forefront of those advances, working with leading manufacturers to develop new furnace technology, new glass compositions, treatments and novel batch delivery, designed to reduce energy costs, improve glass performance and cut emissions.

Revolutionary technology

Apollo Furnace overviewCurrently under trial, a new patented furnace from Apollo could offer a very different way of making glass and we have provided the specialist glass expertise, space and infrastructure to develop the new technology. The furnace has a unique submerged element design, which efficiently and rapidly provides energy directly in to the batch/glass body.

At the same time, our team is working with international minerals specialists, to develop fuel-efficient, reduced emission feedstock for the Apollo melter. We’re undertaking trial melts for both container and flat glass and although these new batch methods can be more expensive than traditional feedstock, there are some promising environmental and production benefits.

Benefits

Compared to traditional furnace technologies, glass can be manufactured more rapidly - offering significantly greater control over the process. Its composition can be maintained within much tighter limits and even be totally changed within a few hours.

Improved process control could significantly reduce rejection rates within the production process and also provide greater scope for reducing the weight of glass products. Potentially, a reduction in weight of as much as 10-20% may be achievable, as well as associated energy and emissions savings.

Custom compositions of glass could be used for specific applications to optimise strength, weight, durability, cost and appearance. The use of fewer additives, such as fluxes and degassing agents, could bring about further reductions in cost and emissions - including CO2, NOx and SOx.

The new technology is likely to first complement existing furnaces - enabling manufacturers to become more flexible in their production and compete more effectively in global glass markets. 

Utilising electricity it presents is a potential for serious cost-savings in tandem with renewable energy infrastructure, as well as the obvious reduction in carbon emissions.

The concept has already been demonstrated in a one tonne pilot-scale plant at GTS and now the process requires further research and development in order to transfer the technology to a large scale, commercial production process. A number of major glass manufacturers, specialist minerals suppliers and brand owners have already become involved in further development.

With the knowledge and experience within GTS, Apollo and our commercial and academic partners, we’re confident that with sufficient financial investment, new - as yet unexploited - glass formulations could be developed. We see the potential for some very strong commercial opportunities in addition to substantial environmental benefits.

Opportunities

The new technology is compatible with existing processes, so there is an opportunity to implement it over time - enabling long-term change in the glass industry to further reduce its environmental impact and lower production costs.

GTS is also working with industry and academic partners to undertake extensive research and analysis on batch preheating, multiple heat exchangers and balancing the cost of increased flux addition against the benefits of emissions reduction.

Many technical and specialist glass applications could benefit from an enhanced degree of production control and flexibility - at a lower cost and scale than is currently possible. 

New processes could enable OEMs within the current supply chain to gain competitive advantage, increase flexibility in production capabilities, and exploit novel glass designs within their products to improve performance and quality. This could apply to industries such as aerospace (e.g. optical systems), renewable energies (e.g. wave guides, amplifiers) and automotive (e.g. windscreen enamels).

The glass industry continues to rise to the sustainability challenge and is taking giant strides in terms of energy saving and recovery techniques. Looking afresh at old ideas, with the benefit of new technology, we’re seeing a real opportunity to work in partnership to realise significant production, cost and environmental benefits.

GTS’s specialist knowledge in glass allows support to be provided throughout the glass supply chain – from raw materials to the end consumer.  We conduct innovative research, provide specialist glass development and independent support and offer accredited testing services to help clients ensure the quality of their products, improve processes or manufacture fundamentally new glass formulations.

For more information please visit www.glass-ts.com, email enquiries@glass-ts.com or call +44 (0) 114 290 1801.

Reproduction of this published material is provided courtesy of Glass International - www.glass-international.com.

Published in Glass International May 2013.

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