The project, which will be carried out by researchers from Fraunhofer Chile with support from the Crea y Valida Fund of the government agency CORFO, proposes to develop and validate a solar thermal concentration system, capable of reaching and maintaining temperatures that allow the smelting of aluminum for its recycling.
“We have designed a compact, simple and innovative system that will allow solar radiation to be reflected at a focal point and melt common aluminum waste directly in it, without a heat transfer fluid, with solar thermal energy” explained the project coordinator, Iván Muñoz Hernández, who highlighted the advantages of incorporating solar thermal energy into the circular economy and its recycling processes.
The primary aluminum production industry generates 1,100 million tons of greenhouse gases annually, being responsible for 2% of the emissions of these gases worldwide, while its conventional recycling reduces the energy needed for the process by 95%. and consequently its emissions. Despite this, the metal recycling process is not free of emissions, being responsible for the release into the environment of half a ton of CO2 equivalent for each ton of recycled aluminum, where the smelting of the material involves the highest energy consumption.
Ivan Muñoz explained that in the project, “through different stages of R&D, the challenges associated with the manufacture and reflectivity of the reflective surfaces, the flow circuit of the material, the determination of the maximum capacity of the pilot will be overcome. and to the quality of the product.The prototype will be scaled, finishing with the equipment built and melting different aluminum alloys at different capacities in a relevant environment and using concentrated solar thermal energy as an energy source”.
The deputy director of Fraunhofer Chile and Leader of Solar Thermal Systems, María Teresa Cerda, adds that the technical success of the project “will allow the validation of a solar concentration design to help free dependence on fossil fuels in the smelting process, directly supporting the decarbonization of the industry, and collaborating to create a new process that does not exist in the country or in the world.This pilot would be able to prove a totally innovative concept to achieve a more circular economy”.
Solar heat in industrial processes is a line of development in which Fraunhofer has been working for years, which has led it to provide various solutions to replace fossil fuels through solar thermal technologies.