New £1.2m study to explore converting waste heat to electrical power

A consortium led by steam engineering specialist, Spirax Sarco, is to embark on a three year research programme to explore the potential for low temperature waste heat to be converted into electrical power after being awarded funding from the UK’s innovation agency.

Spirax Sarco and partners has been granted £1.24 million by Innovate UK, which works with people, companies and partner organisations to find and drive the science and technology innovations that will grow the UK economy.

Entitled ‘Low Temperature Waste Heat to Power Generation’, the research project will see the development of a pioneering technology which effectively converts low temperature waste heat into useful electrical power.

An estimated 70% of final energy usage in the industrial sector is accounted for by thermal processes such as furnaces, reactors and boilers, with a third of this energy wasted through losses. A significant amount of this heat can be recovered and utilised to improve energy efficiency and reduce emissions, but the majority of this energy is available at low temperatures, making it difficult to use directly within the plant. This project therefore aims to develop a heat-to-power system based on the innovative Controlled Phase Cycle (CPC), which provides up to three times higher heat to electrical power conversion than the widely-used Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC).

Building on successful small scale trials that have already taken place, the support will allow the consortium of partners to develop a commercial offering that will target the estimated 300TWh of heat available in European Industry and beyond.

The consortium includes five industrial partners: Spirax-Sarco Limited, Arctic Circle, Howden Compressors and IPU, Brunel University London, and Cooper Tire of Melksham. Through this Innovate UK-backed programme, these partners are able to collaborate effectively to develop promising new technology which will offer an attractive investment opportunity for companies, allowing them to lower energy bills, create income from otherwise wasted energy, and reduce their carbon footprint. Furthermore, this technology will contribute to reducing overall energy consumption within the industrial sector on a national and global scale.

Leading the project, Professor Jeremy Miller, group research and solutions manager at Spirax Sarco said: “The funding we have received from Innovate UK is vital and will allow us to develop a substantial R&D programme to address a real gap in the market. Without this crucial support, the project would only be able to explore theoretical aspects.

“Together, the consortium has the right skills, expertise, knowledge, facilities to ensure success of the project. We also have a good variety of organisations within the group, which encourages cross-fertilisation and knowledge transfer. Our aim is to overcome the limitations of conventional technologies and provide benefits to both potential users and the UK economy.”