Combined heat and power systems in the biomass industry means the simultaneous generation of multiple forms of useful energy (usually mechanical and thermal) from biomass resources in a single, integrated system. In a conventional electricity generation systems, about 35% of the energy potential contained in the fuel is converted on average into electricity, whilst the rest is lost as waste heat. CHP systems use both electricity and heat and therefore can achieve an efficiency of up to 90%.
CHP technologies are well suited for sustainable development projects because they are socio-economically attractive and technologically mature and reliable. In developing countries, cogeneration can easily be integrated in many industries, especially agriculture and food processing, taking advantage of the biomass residues of the production process. This has the dual benefits of lowering fuel costs and solving waste disposal issues.
CHP systems consist of a number of individual components—prime mover (heat engine), generator, heat recovery, and electrical interconnection—configured into an integrated whole. Prime movers for CHP units include reciprocating engines, combustion or gas turbines, steam turbines, microturbines, and fuel cells.
A typical CHP system provides:
Distributed generation of electrical and/or mechanical power.
Waste-heat recovery for heating, cooling, or process applications.
Seamless system integration for a variety of technologies, thermal applications, and fuel types.
The success of any biomass-fuelled CHP plant is heavily dependent on the availability of a suitable biomass feedstock freely available in urban and rural areas.
Urban wood waste
Municipal solid wastes
Food processing residues
Reciprocating or internal combustion engines (ICEs) are among the most widely used prime movers to power small electricity generators. Advantages include large variations in the size range available, fast start-up, good efficiencies under partial load efficiency, reliability, and long life.
Steam turbines are the most commonly employed prime movers for large power outputs. Steam at lower pressure is extracted from the steam turbine and used directly or is converted to other forms of thermal energy. System efficiencies can vary between 15 and 35% depending on the steam parameters.
Co-firing of biomass with coal and other fossil fuels can provide a short-term, low-risk, low-cost option for producing renewable energy while simultaneously reducing the use of fossil fuels. Biomass can typically provide between 3 and 15 percent of the input energy into the power plant. Most forms of biomass are suitable for co-firing.
Steam engines are also proven technology but suited mainly for constant speed operation in industrial environments. Steam engines are available in different sizes ranging from a few kW to more than 1 MWe.
A gas turbine system requires landfill gas, biogas, or a biomass gasifier to produce the gas for the turbine. This biogas must be carefully filtered of particulate matter to avoid damaging the blades of the gas turbine.
Stirling engines utilize any source of heat provided that it is of sufficiently high temperature. A wide variety of heat sources can be used but the Stirling engine is particularly well-suited to biomass fuels. Stirling engines are available in the 0.5 to 150 kWe range and a number of companies are working on its further development.
A micro-turbine recovers part of the exhaust heat for preheating the combustion air and hence increases overall efficiency to around 20-30%. Several competing manufacturers are developing units in the 25-250kWe range. Advantages of micro-turbines include compact and light weight design, a fairly wide size range due to modularity, and low noise levels.
Fuel cells are electrochemical devices in which hydrogen-rich fuel produces heat and power. Hydrogen can be produced from a wide range of renewable and non-renewable sources. A future high temperature fuel cell burning biomass might be able to achieve greater than 50% efficiency.
Electric mobility is the newest trend in today’s highly competitive market. Electric vehicles have already been defined as the future of transportation, and are on the increase. They are predicted to inevitably take over the car industry by the next decade.
Through technical innovation, e-Mobility is prepared to address today’s concerns linked with climate change, fossil fuel dependency, and environmental protection. Today, a slew of big auto manufacturers have not only begun building their own electric vehicles — alongside the industry’s pioneer, Tesla — but have also planned to discontinue the production of gas-powered vehicles in the next decades.
Vacuum technology has been – and still is – essential in this process.
Vacuum technology and mobility: a lifelong interest
Vacuum technology is not new in the mobility sector: it has been around for more than 60 years to support the creation and production of vehicle batteries.
It began as an industry-wide innovation and has been in use for decades. Despite this, it will continue to be utilized for many years to come, as it is still playing a huge role in the most recent e-mobility innovation.
Agilent, a supplier of vacuum and leak detection equipment and services, is dedicated to providing concrete solutions in the approach to sustainable mobility. It assists manufacturers all over the world in both the core, fundamental procedures of developing renewable battery technology and the secondary processes that are equally significant. Vacuum and leak detection technologies, for example, are important components in new industrial processes for vehicle electrification.
What is the role of vacuum technology in the development of electric vehicles?
Vacuum is already used in various functional stages and processes associated with electric mobility. From the electrolyte-filling stage of a lithium-ion battery (to ensure that the cell is evenly saturated with the electrolyte) to assisting in the shaping of the electric motor with constantly innovative generator technologies, to make them modular, lighter, more affordable, quieter, and more efficient. Agilent is involved in the development and production of a vast majority of electric vehicle components.
In addition to lithium-ion batteries, the most known and utilized rechargeable batteries, Agilent concentrates as well on the advancements in hydrogen fuel cells, one of the future trends for innovative technologies in electric vehicles.
What are lithium batteries?
Modern lithium-ion batteries are the favoured technology for electric vehicles right now. Unlike other batteries, lithium-ion batteries are among the most often used rechargeable batteries because they have a much higher energy density and a slow discharge rate, allowing them to maintain a charge for significantly longer.
They are innovative battery technologies that utilize lithium ions as a key component in the battery’s operation and electrochemistry.
Lithium-ion batteries, in addition to appearing in electric cars, can also be found in small portable electronics such as laptops and smartphones, and are frequently utilized in military and aerospace applications.
Vacuum Technology is driving electric mobility!
Vacuum is already used in various functional stages and processes associated with electric mobility. Let’s go deep together in the stages where vacuum is the dominant player.
1. Battery production: vacuum technology in more than half of the battery manufacture processes!
Agilent’s vacuum specialists assist lithium-ion battery manufacturers with their procedures and technological challenges in production processes, quality control, and safety measurements. As a result, they have been significantly involved in the development of electric mobility, with their vacuum tech currently accounting for more than half of the processes in battery creation.
Battery performance, longevity, and overall quality are all highly influenced by the quality of the manufacturing process. Agilent solutions and experience optimize resource usage and reduce process time while ensuring product quality goals are fulfilled.
2. Battery Cooling
As batteries get more efficient and powerful, car companies are being pressed to develop new heat management systems. Cooling systems must keep battery temperatures between 20 and 40 degrees Celsius. Liquid coolers have been shown to be the most efficient approach for keeping the battery pack at the proper temperature range.
The biggest disadvantage of liquid coolers is the potential of a leak or spillage. Undetected leaks significantly reduce the battery’s service life and/or allow highly reactive electrolytes to escape. Water leakage in battery coolers is a severe problem that affects battery durability and battery pack safety. To ensure long battery life, the cell must be completely leak-proof.
To confirm leak-proofness, a leak test is performed using a vacuum leak detection instrument, which can detect even the slightest leak using helium as tracer gas and detecting it by means of an embedded mass spectrometer. Highly sensitive helium leak detection systems play an important role in the production of lithium batteries and bear a significant amount of responsibility in terms of safety.
3. Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems
There isn’t a heat-producing engine in an electric vehicle. Differently to low efficiency thermal engines, high-performance electric motors generate very little heat. The vehicle cabin temperature must be raised by other means. So, how do electric vehicles generate heat?
Well, it needs to produce interior heat using — you got it — electricity. Often via one or more resistive heating elements. Early electrical automobiles in fact employed basic resistive heaters, while contemporary vehicles have heat pump systems that transport thermal energy from the outside into the interior.
These technological HVAC systems necessitate extensive vacuum and leak detection solutions in order to create strong and dependable components capable of successfully capturing and directing heat. Look at how the leak-proofness is tested here.
4. Electric motor
Electric vehicle manufacturers research innovative motor/generator technology to make them more modular and efficient, lighter, quieter and even cheaper than typical electric motors. Water is the principal enemy of electric and electronic parts, hence leak detection and humidity tightness are an absolute priority in all of them. Agilent helium leak detectors enable faster and more exact leak location and monitoring for completely sealed electric vehicle motors.
5. Electric and electronic components
The operating range of an electric vehicle is not just determined by battery capacity. New materials and procedures are being applied to manage higher voltage, temperatures, and insulation difficulties in order to improve the efficiency of a car’s internal electrical distribution.
In propulsion-grade power electronics, inverters, connections, filters, busbars, and safety devices all play important roles.
Insulating or environmental coatings are required for all of these components. Agilent is proud to supply diffusion and turbomolecular pumps for innovative coating equipment. Browse the Agilent website to find the best turbopumps and turbomolecular pumps.
Fuel cells are another zero-emission alternative to combustion engines and even to lithium batteries. This intriguing technology works with hydrogen gas: hydrogen is employed in fuel cells to generate power through a chemical process instead of combustion, with just water and heat as byproducts. Hydrogen reacts electrochemically in fuel cells to produce electricity and power the car. Brake energy is also absorbed and stored in a battery to offer extra power during short acceleration occurrences.
To prevent leaks that could impair performance and safety, fuel cell generators, gas tanks, and distribution lines must be hermetically sealed and leak-checked by means of specific leak detectors. Vacuum technology and processes also play a key role here.
Future Trends for Green Technology in Vehicles
According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, by 2040, more than half of all built and sold passenger cars will be electric. As public concern about climate change grows, governments throughout the world are stepping up efforts to reduce carbon emissions. Agilent is committed to supporting this change by providing the finest, more innovative and performing vacuum technology equipment and machinery.
Hydrogen will be one of the critical assets in the energy stream in the coming decades for the sustainable development of society. The abundant availability of hydrogen and its application in electricity production using fuel cells without any harmful emissions makes it distinct. It can be produced from renewable and sustainable resources, thus promising an eco-friendly solution for the energy transition in the coming years.
Currently, hydrogen production using the electrolysis of water is most preferred. However, hydrogen production can vary in the range of sectors. Hydrogen can be used in electricity production, biomass, solar and wind power application.
Despite its advantages, two significant issues hinder its commercialisation and generalisation as an efficient fuel, and energy transition toward zero-emission and fossil-free energy solutions. The first is hydrogen is an energy vector, which means hydrogen needs to be produced before its use and eventually lead to energy consumption in hydrogen synthesis. The second is the low volumetric energy density of hydrogen, which leads to hydrogen storage and transportation issues because of its lowest volumetric energy density (0.01079 MJ/L)
Researchers have suggested several solutions to attempt to increase this value:
compression in gas cylinders;
liquefaction in cryogenic tanks;
storage in metal-hydride alloys;
adsorption onto large specific surface area-materials
chemical storage in covalent and ionic compounds (viz. formic acid, borohydride, ammonia)
Applications of Hydrogen
The hydrogen applications are in the food industry to turn unsaturated fats and oils present in vegetable oils, butter into a saturated state. In the metal forming industry, atomic hydrogen welding is used as an environmentally sustainable welding process. In the manufacturing industry, hydrogen and nitrogen are used to create a boundary and prevent the oxidation of metals.
The recent advancements in hydrogen applications in the steel manufacturing industry are one of the most significant hydrogen applications for low or zero-emission iron ore conversion.
The potential use of hydrogen can play a vital role in reducing greenhouse emissions and the global target of achieving a minimal no emission target by 2050. However, the automotive industry is still the largest consumer and most attractive sector in the current scenario. But with the future forecast of reducing hydrogen fuel cost can do wonders with the goal set during Paris Climate Summit.
Hydrogen use in stationary and automotive applications, such as fuel cell vehicles and hydrogen refuelling stations above all, has shown to be hindered by its volumetric energy density – the lowest among all the standard fuels nowadays used. Compression seems to be the most efficient solution to reach high storage levels, thus making hydrogen more common as a renewable and sustainable fuel.
The availability of several hydrogen compression technologies makes the development of new innovative and environmentally-friendly solutions for the use of energy possible, leading to a transition towards a fossil fuel divestment and making a critical contribution to sustainable development
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