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Highly efficient process to obtain glass frits

Country of Origin: Spain
Reference Number: TOES20170523001
Publication Date: 23 May 2017

Summary

A Spanish Research Institution has developed a quicker and greener methodology to manufacture glass frits. The process designed uses concentrated solar energy to obtain glass frits reducing time, energy consumption, cost and environmental impact. Industrial partners from the glass industry are being sought to collaborate through a patent licence agreement.

Description

Glass frits are glassy materials prepared by melting a mixture of raw materials at high temperature. Frits are the main component of nearly all ceramic glazes. They are also present in many compositions of different materials where a glassy phase is needed as binder. Nowadays, the production of frits is conducted in electric or fuel heated furnaces (1350º to 1550ºC needed). Once the raw materials batches are melted, they are cooled in water at high cooling rate; thus, the melt solidifies as small pieces of glass. This melting process implies a significant energy consumption, low efficiency and productivity of the process and high CO2 production. 
This invention proposes a new process for glass frits manufacture using a thermal solar energy system, heating directly and faster the raw materials up to high temperature. Using a vertical axis solar radiation concentrator, the heating is focalised inside the crucible heating directly (up to 1800ºC) the raw materials batch with concentrated solar energy, unlike traditional methods which heat the crucible from outside to inside. Accordingly, a huge saving in time and energy consumption is obtained because of the higher power density of concentrated solar energy. Besides, the process time is drastically reduced (only 15-45 minutes needed) because the raw materials are under the solar radiation focal spot.
There are no differences in the characteristics of frits obtained by using concentrated solar energy or electric/fuel furnace.

The technology was developed by a Spanish Research Institution and lab tested obtaining promising results. Therefore, partners from the glass/ceramic industries, specifically glass or furnace manufacturers, are needed to test, develop and implement the technology at industrial scale. The collaboration would involve a patent licence agreement.
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Advantages and Innovations

	The transformation rate of raw materials in the final glass is much higher than in traditional processes.
 Reduction higher than 80% in the reaction time (heating, decarbonation and melting) that means an increment in productivity.
 Because of the use of solar energy there is not any direct or indirect CO2 emission due to energy generation.
 The costs of installation and maintenance are significantly reduced.
 Raw material batch is directly heated, meaning lower heat losses and in consequence a reduction in energy consumption.
 Reduction in the mechanical erosion and chemical corrosion of the crucible inner wall increasing its operational life.

Stage Of Development

Under development/lab tested

Requested partner

Industrial partners from the glass sector, glass/ceramic or furnace manufacturers interested in a license agreement for further development and exploitation of the technology.
The technology has been lab tested, therefore the partner would collaborate in testing the methodology at industrial scale. Subsequently, the partner is expected to implement the technology in its own facilities or collaborate in the production and commercialization of the solar furnace.

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