My new word for today is ‘Struvite’. Naturally this mineral was named after Heinrich Christian Gottfried von Struve, who discovered the phosphate crystals in medieval sewer systems in Hamburg in 1845. Struvite is ammonium magnesium phosphate, and is most commonly found in kidney stones: but it is also a problem in sewage and waste water treatment, particularly when formed in anaerobic digesters, after the release ammonium and phosphate from waste material, as it forms as a scale on pumps and lines and clogs system pipes!
So now we all know. There are a couple of ways of getting rid of kidney stones, but how do you clear Struvite from digester discharge pipes? Well Environmental Treatment Concepts have applied their Scalewatcher Enigma units for East Worthing Treatment Works as a solution to a Struvite build-up there, which has solved the problem! The Scalewatcher is a magnetic water treatment system, normally used to prevent lime-scale in water pipes, heating or cooling systems. The Carbon Trust states that 1mm of limescale can increase energy costs in heating systems by 7%, enough justification for adding large quantities of expensive water treatment chemicals: or for investigating alternative “external” treatments such as the Scalewatcher. Back in 2003 a Processingtalk article explained the Scalewatcher principle: basically the alternating magnetic field imposed on the water flow crerates new nucleation sites within the flowing liquid, for the precipitation of the scale within the flowing liquid, rather than on the walls. Looked at another way, it is micro-particle technology, if not nanotechnology, being applied to every day industrial problems. And the Southern Water application is likely to save them GBP100,000 this year (Link).
Scepticism is OK: it has its place. But let’s push on, one step further, and apply some similar alternating magnetic fields to the fuel lines supplying steam boilers. This is what Maxsys do, with their Fuel+ system, (Link). The finely calibrated magnetic treatment has to be operated within 1.5m of the burner, and the result is a 5% fuel saving: guaranteed. The numerous Maxsys case studies on Processingtalk show this 5% remarkably consistently, but occasionally give higher savings: typically the systems before and after are audited by ABB Engineering Services, who have independently confirmed the results. And these installations are at companies like Dow Chemical, Cray Valley, First Milk Cheese Company, Findus, Ford.
With me so far? OK. So you can envisage some effect of micro-particle clusters, nano-technology effects, nuclei in the fuel oil that make it separate and burn more efficiently, to produce these gains. But – most of the companies quoted above use natural gas as their main fuel, ie methane, which is really not normally well known for magnetic interactions, or nuclei. So belief is getting a little strained maybe? Maxsys commercialised this system in 2003, based on a strong working relationship with Aston University, which includes the CFD expertise of Dr Sotos Generalis. Dr Generalis and a colleague from Tokyo have just announced the discovery of a rigid structure which exists within the centre of air turbulence. They believe this new ‘Hairpin Vortex Solution’ could revolutionise the understanding of turbulence, and provide an ability to control it.
I think it is time to start looking at these magnetic micro, or nano-effects more closely: on a similar topic there are also other ideas from the NanoKTN and the TSB funding for the Energy Generation and Supply KTN reported in the Processingtalk newsletter this week.
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