Messer Group GmbH (Bad Soden, Germany; www.messergroup.com) opened a new competence center in Krefeld on 6 June 2018. It will serve as a hub for testing gas application technologies in the areas of Food, Industrial Cryogenic Applications, Cutting & Welding, and Chemistry & Environment. The competence center’s new home offers ample space for future expansion.
The technical centers for the various segments were previously spread across different sites in a number of countries. They have now been brought together in Krefeld, the control center for important central functions, including Application Technology. The Application Technology experts will now be able to get to the test facilities in a matter of minutes, whereas in the past such visits often involved long journeys. “It will also allow our experts from the different segments to share experience based on practical tests and pool their efforts to find new solutions for our customers,” says Stefan Messer, owner and CEO of the Messer Group.
The new technical center’s equipment includes a cold grinding facility with complete classification and analysis technology, equipment for cryogenic chilling and freezing of food products, test equipment for transport refrigeration, a unit for high-pressure extraction with supercritical fluids, and welding equipment for all commonly used welding methods. Rooms and facilities are also available for employee and customer training.
A specialized competence center’s function covers the stage between research and development under laboratory conditions on the one hand and industrial application on the other. It serves the purpose of carrying out detailed analysis of technical processes, practical testing of newly developed application technology and working out specific solutions for individual industrial applications, all of which is performed in close cooperation with universities and project partners.
Gases are used in many sectors of industry and a diverse range of processes. Their use has expanded greatly over the past few decades. New gas-based processes are constantly being developed and existing ones refined.
In the Cutting and Welding segment, the main focus – but not the only one – is on processing metals. Cutting and welding gases have to meet many new requirements in this area, among other things because of the rapid development of laser technology. Specific gas mixtures can significantly improve the efficiency and quality of welding processes. This segment also includes additive manufacturing and 3D printing with metal material – processes in which shielding gases are indispensable.
The same applies to the Chemistry and Environment segment, where gases ensure process safety and help preserve product quality. As a rule, this involves preventing oxidation reactions and thereby also containing the risk of fire and explosion. On the other hand, however, oxygen is also used for targeted process optimization, including in the treatment of drinking water, wastewater and process water.
The Food Industry uses gases on account of their chemical and physical properties. They help extend the shelf life of products by creating a modified atmosphere in the food packaging process (MAP; Modified Atmosphere Packaging); they are also increasingly used as refrigerants both in processing and transportation. In food production, for example, cryogenic gases are used for rapid freezing, surface hardening or as a cold source during various mixing processes. When transporting food products, these gases allow complete truck load compartments or individual insulated containers to be kept at the desired temperature.
Cold Grinding usually involves the use of liquid nitrogen at a temperature of minus 196 degrees Celsius. The cold gas ensures that the material to be ground becomes brittle, thereby facilitating the production of extremely fine powders. The low temperature also counteracts the evaporation of volatile constituents, which is particularly important when grinding spices, in order to keep the flavorings in the product. Another example of an efficient, environmentally friendly application involving the use of liquid nitrogen is the cleaning of waste gas flows by means of condensing and freezing out vaporous substances from process waste gases in the chemical industry, where the condensed vapors can often be reused.
The physicist and Nobel laureate Georg Bednorz, one of the discoverers of high-temperature superconductivity, was a guest of honor at the opening of the technical center, where he gave a talk on superconductivity as a key technology of the 21st century. Modern high-temperature superconductors lose their electrical resistance when cooled with liquid nitrogen. They have been marketable for energy-related applications for several years now. High-temperature superconducting cables transmit large amounts of electricity without loss, thus enabling the construction of highly efficient power distribution systems in cities and at industrial sites.
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