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Waste-based ceramics improve energy-storage economics

| By Mary Page Bailey

Ceramic materials’ high heat resistance makes them a promising media for thermal energy storage, but their high costs have inhibited their widespread use for this application. Now, a new technology offered by Seramic Materials Ltd. (Masdar City, U.A.E.; can efficiently convert a wide range of industrial solid waste materials, such as steel slag and incinerator ash, into ceramic products used for energy storage and construction. “On average, our products are up to 50% cheaper than conventional ceramics, and the carbon footprint can be reduced by up to 60% when compared to materials like alumina, which require energy-intensive extraction and transport of bauxite raw materials. We replace those with locally generated wastes that are always available,” says Nicolas Calvet, CEO of Seramic Materials.

The key to Seramic Materials’ technology is a patented method of mixing different waste streams and fine-tuning process characteristics to yield a specific end-product formulation. “There is great variability in the waste composition, based on industrial source and geography, meaning that we have to readjust our process and formulation and tune the firing temperature before launching production,” explains Calvet. These proprietary analyses take place in Seramic Materials’ dedicated laboratory, where characteristics such as water absorption and compression resistance are precisely tuned to optimize product formulation. Since the main production process uses conventional equipment, Seramic Materials is partnering with existing ceramics factories to utilize their facilities during periods of inactivity, which significantly lowers capital expenditures.

The company has recently commercialized a technical ceramic product called ReThink Seramic — Flora, which can reach temperatures as high as 1,250°C, making it ideal for use in concentrated solar-power (CSP) installations. Seramic Materials has manufactured 30 tons of Flora at a plant in Europe, and projects deploying the material are in development in Spain and the U.S. Work is also underway for a workshop in Abu Dhabi to produce 20,000 m2/yr of sustainable architectural tiles.