The Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT) plans to build a heat pump that generates steam at 184 C at 11 bars without using gas. The tech, which uses natural refrigerants, will be used in the pharmaceutical industry.
The AIT has announced the Advanced Heat Pump Demonstrator (AHEAD) project. The institute and two pharmaceutical companies, Takeda and BMK, aim to build a steam-generating heat pump that can reach temperatures of 200 C to 260 C by using natural refrigerants.
The new technology will build on an existing heat pump that uses a reciprocating compressor and delivers steam at 165 C, developed by Germany-based Sustainable Process Heat. The heat pump is being adapted to use natural refrigerants as part of the AHEAD project.
The new system will first heat water from 65 C to about 130 C, evaporating it in the process. The vapor will then be compressed at 11 bar, heating it to over 184 C, as required for pharmaceutical production.
“The heat pump will be powered by electricity,” an AIT spokesperson told pv magazine. “The technical challenge here is that there may be thermal problems in the compressor or problems with the chiller oil due to the high temperatures. Also, most conventional refrigerants cannot be used for such high temperatures.”
The research project will be the first to integrate a steam-generating heat pump in industrial operations, according to an AIT statement. The team hopes the gas-free system will reduce carbon dioxide production by up to 90% at one of Takeda’s largest pharmaceutical production sites in Vienna, Austria.
“Industry is one of the central levers for achieving European and national climate targets. Around a third of all energy is consumed here, and the sector is responsible for almost 50% of domestic greenhouse gas emissions,” said Bernd Vogl, managing director of Austria’s Climate and Energy Fund. “In order to make industrial processes more sustainable, innovative technologies must be developed and companies, research institutions and the public sector must work shoulder to shoulder – as is the case here with this ‘AHEAD’ project.”
The AHEAD demonstrator is expected to start operations at the end of 2024 and last for a period of a year. The project is funded by the Climate and Energy Fund and is part of Austria’s New Energy for Industry (NEFI) research initiative.
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