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LASERFIRING - Climate Change Adaptation of the Structural Ceramics Industry by Decreasing the Firing Temperature Using Laser Technology

LIFE09 ENV/ES/000435


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Contact details:

Contact person: Germán DE LA FUENTE LEIS
Tel: +34 976 762527
Fax: +34 976 761957
Email: xerman@unizar.es



Project description:

Background

The manufacture of ceramics for the construction industry (brick masonry, stoneware, roof tiles, etc.) entails firing clay at very high temperatures (up to 1 300 ºC). The amount of energy consumed in the process is also high and large amounts of greenhouse gases (GHG) are emitted. High temperatures are generally necessary to achieve the required aesthetic finish. However, the desired mechanical and structural properties can usually be achieved at lower temperatures. Laser technology has been used in the ceramics industry, in particular for marking and for decoration. While it has never been used in structural ceramics, previous work by the beneficiary has demonstrated its potential applications in this area. This could facilitate firing at lower temperatures, greatly reducing energy demand and GHG emissions.


Objectives

The LASERFIRING project aimed to develop a new method for manufacturing structural ceramics using laser technology in the firing phase, allowing firing at lower temperatures. In the particular case of refractory bricks, the new process would reduce the firing temperature from 1 300 ºC to 900 ºC, without compromising the aesthetic or structural properties. The laser technology would replace part of the firing step. Laser surface treatment allows the conservation of the technological properties of the ceramics, even at a lower firing temperature. The new procedure requires a new drying system and a new furnace in which the laser tool will be integrated. This new approach would allow the firing temperature to be reduced by between 100 and 500 ºC, resulting in a considerable reduction in GHG emissions in the structural ceramics industry.


Results

The LASERFIRING project achieved all its targets: the beneficiaries set up and validated a prototype for the development of a new line of ceramic products for the building industry, which reduces CO2 emissions. The prototype achieved reduction of 40%, in the best cases, and of 10% in the worse ones. It also showed that for products that have higher treatment temperatures in the conventional process the possibilities for reduction of CO2 emissions by means of the ‘LASERFIRING’ process are greater.

The LASERFIRING technology and process is up scalable to a semi-industrial process for some materials and sectors such as wall and ceramic tiles The beneficiary believe that it could be feasible to install 10 LASERFIRING furnaces of medium size (300 tonnes/day) in the next 10 years. This entails a production of 1 100 000 tonnes/year that will lead to a reduction in CO2 emissions of 90 000 to 15 000 tonnes/year, depending on the decrease of the treatment temperature.

The reduction of emissions and the energy savings may be quantified, depending on the starting mineral composition. Energy savings and reduction of CO2 emissions achieved for:

  • White firing clay – 28-34%;
  • Red fired clays – 10-14%;
  • Black bricks – about 35%;
  • Gressified clay – 20-30%.

A pilot was designed to test the new process on different ceramic pastes. However, the project did not achieved good results with certain types of brick. The resistance to frosting is very poor and the required temperatures for obtaining bricks with suitable characteristics would be more or less the same than those used in the standard process. Although the four sides of the bricks have been treated, the project has not achieved an uniformity of treatment in the faces. Since the problem only occurs in the front and back faces of the brick but not in the upper and lower edges (the distance between the laser and the edges does not vary), the project leaders reached the conclusion that the origin of the problem is the low power of the laser. With a higher power, they concluded, this problem would be solved. The determination of the exact suitable power, however, was beyond the scope of the project.

Furthermore, the project demonstrated the feasibility of its process for bricks which show practically the range of colours of the current commercial products, but with the advantage that they do not require additives. Moreover, it was shown to be possible to obtain aesthetic effects that are impossible to achieve by means of the standard process. Another major advantage is cost: the installation costs of a LASERFIRING facility are around 10% cheaper than those of a conventional one.

The project results were widely disseminated among the sector through conferences, fairs, organised visits to the pilot plant and technical courses. The main threat for the continuity of the project achievements on an industrial level is the lack of power of the laser equipment used. For this reason, the beneficiaries are considering applying to financing programmes, such as the CIP-EIP-ECO-INNOVATION, in order to scale up the process. Also, the know-how gained by the project is being applied in the follow-up LIFE project (LIFE11 ENV/ES/000560 CERAMGLASS - Environmentally Friendly Processing of Ceramics and Glass), which planned to construct a laser furnace for the treatment of ceramic and glass tiles.

Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Communication Plan (see "Read more" section).


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Environmental issues addressed:

Themes

Industry-Production - Non-metallic minerals
Climate change Mitigation - GHG reduction in EU ETS sectors


Keywords

alternative technology‚  climate change mitigation‚  energy saving‚  emission reduction‚  building material‚  greenhouse gas‚  industrial process‚  ceramics industry


Natura 2000 sites

Not applicable


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Beneficiaries:

Coordinator Instituto de Ciencia de Materiales de Aragón, (CSIC-Universidad de Zaragoza)
Type of organisation Research institution
Description The Instituto de Ciencia de Materiales de Aragón (ICMA), or the Aragon Institute of Materials Science, was established in 1985 by the Spanish National Research Council and the University of Zaragoza. One of the institute’s areas of research is the development of laser processes based on new technologies. ICMA has considerable experience in laser surface processing of materials to improve aesthetic and structural properties.
Partners Physicgm, Spain Asociación para la Investigación y Desarrollo Industrial de los Recursos Naturales (AITEMIN), Spain Easylasser, Spain

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Project reference LIFE09 ENV/ES/000435
Duration 01-SEP-2010 to 31-AUG -2013
Total budget 2,468,358.00 €
EU contribution 1,232,179.00 €
Project location Aragón(España)

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Read more:

Project web site Project's website
Publication: After-LIFE Communication Plan After-LIFE Communication Plan
Publication: After-LIFE Communication Plan Plan de comunicación after-LIFE
Publication: Layman report Layman report
Publication: Layman report Layman report (Spanish version)
Publication: Technical report Project's Final technical report
Video link Project's video 1 (4.20')

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Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version