The Netherlands-based Swinkels Family Brewers became the first organization in the world to fully use iron powder as a renewable fuel. The technology is being developed at the Technical University of Eindhoven, the equipment for the furnaces and the recovery process was created at the Metal Power Consortium. The brewers hope that in the near future they will be able to completely abandon other sources of energy and continue to produce 7 thousand tons of beer per year.
The main advantage of fine iron powder is that during combustion with a high energy release, it simply oxidizes, turning into a mixture of rust and scale, and does not generate emissions into the atmosphere. But this waste is not garbage at all – the Dutch scientists have developed several ways to restore rust back to iron with the possibility of re-burning it. The most convenient is electrolysis, for which brewers get electricity from solar and wind power plants.
Iron powder burns at temperatures up to 1800 ° C, which is more than enough for most industrial applications. The efficiency of the electrolysis recovery system reaches 80%, which is comparable to the best performance of hydrogen plants. However, the technology has a fundamental limitation – it is good only for generating heat, since when generating electricity in this way, the efficiency will not exceed 40%.
An additional advantage of iron powder is that it is a very cheap raw material that does not require special storage conditions, is easily transported and does not lose energy over time. Now engineers from the Technical University of Eindhoven are working on the installation of a closed cycle with a capacity of 1 MW, and by 2024 they are going to build the first thermal complex with a capacity of 10 MW. And if the authorities give the go-ahead, then by the end of the decade it will be possible to begin transferring old coal-fired CHPPs to a new efficient fuel – iron powder.