Cleaning industrial chemical and pharmaceutical tanks typically requires a lot of energy, time, and caustic solvents. The handling and disposal of spent solvents is also an energy- and labor-intensive process. Now, engineers at Telsonic USA, Inc., Bridgeport, NJ, have created a tube resonator that uses ultrasonic waves and soap and water to clean tanks more thoroughly and quickly. In applications at the DuPont Merck Pharmaceutical Co., engineers estimate that the system saved 3.51 million Btu--the equivalent of 605 barrels of oil--in one year. Cleaning time was slashed 86%, and 6,100 lbs of solvent were eliminated. On the market now, the technology also can be used to de-aerate liquids, speed chemical reactions, and cause crystal formation in certain metals or slurries.
Ceramic 'recuperator' recovers waste heat
Almost every industrial process uses heat exchangers to transfer heat among process streams, or to recover waste heat normally vented to the atmosphere. Until now, such "recuperators" used metal tubes that were limited to airstreams of 1,400 degrees F or cooler. A new ceramic composite heat exchanger developed by U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Industrial Technologies and Babcock & Wilcox, Barberton, OH, allows manufacturers to recover energy from waste streams such as flue gasses exceeding 2,000F. The alumina-zirconia fiber material resists corrosion and wear better than metal, and exhibits a high strength-to-weight ratio. At a prototype installation at a DuPont incinerator, researchers estimate that the ceramic heat exchanger reduced fuel consumption 35-38%. Other applications: Scrap-metal remelting and advanced gas-fired turbines.
Lamp cuts energy use more than 60%
When engineers at Fusion Lighting, Inc., Rockville, MD, discovered that sulfur glowed when stimulated by microwave energy, a new light bulb design literally went on in their heads. Soon after, they substituted sulfur for toxic mercury in their ultraviolet industrial lamps. Their invention, the "Solar 1000'' sulfur lamp, delivers the equivalent of eighty 100W conventional light bulbs in a shoebox-sized device. The lamp is coupled with a large semi-transparent lightpipe developed by A.L. Whitehead, Vancouver, British Columbia. The lamp has no wires, filaments, or metal parts to burn out, and produces a spectrum close to sunlight. In one test installation, a single sulfur lamp and lightpipe replaced 240 conventional 200W mercury high-intensity-discharge lamps, and slashed energy use by 72%. Potential applications for the sulfur light are wide-ranging. The light is powerful enough to light stadiums and airplane hangars; its color spectrum makes it useful for medical and plant research, claim Fusion engineers. Prototypes presently illuminate the entrance to the U.S. Department of Energy and the Space Hall at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. Look for it on the market next year.
Air-conditioner 'freezes out' competition
In air-conditioning systems, cooling capacity is the name of the game. A new accumulator/heat exchanger can inexpensively boost the cooling capacity of automotive a/c systems by at least 15%--and reduce fuel use. The accumulator, designed for use in conventional a/c systems, boosts cooling by "overfeeding" the evaporator with liquid coolant. Excess liquid coolant exiting the evaporator is rerouted to the heat exchanger and vaporized. This in turn decreases the compressor's work load. The accumulator works with piston and rotary compressors, as well as CFC-free refrigerants. The system is patented by Oak Ridge National Laboratory engineers Fang Chen and Vince Mei, and may also find use in vending machines and refrigerators. U.S. automakers and a/c OEMs may license the technology.