Harnessing Existing Technology to Solve the World’s Biggest Challenges – How repurposing industrial heating equipment may offer the brightest prospect yet for tackling climate change.

A Californian tech company, Eco-Gen has developed an induction heating technology which is set to change the world, innovating on and changing the application of an established induction technology in a way that will revolutionise the renewable energy sector.

Seventy years ago, a US firm, Inductotherm, invented induction heating technology in order to control industrial metallurgy processes. Until then, furnaces were using more traditional radiation and convection methodologies.

All of a sudden, there was this fascinating new method of heating. As soon as the equipment was switched on, the metal coil at the heart of it would turn cherry red and that heat would be transferred to the metals in a matter of seconds, and it would immediately become malleable.

This innovative process continues today, with Inductotherm responsible for over 36,000 furnaces around the world, combining an understanding of physics, electromagnetism, power electronics and process control, but the basic concepts behind induction heating are simple to understand.

Discovered by Michael Faraday, induction starts with a coil of conductive material such as copper and as current flows through the coil, a magnetic field is produced in and around the coil. The ability to harness the magnetic field in an effective way depends on the coil design as well as the frequency of current flowing through the coil.

The direction of current flow influences the direction of the magnetic field, so passing an alternating current through the coil will result in a magnetic field changing in direction at the same rate as the frequency of the AC passing through it. 50Hz AC will cause the magnetic field to switch directions 50 times a second. 100kHz AC will cause the magnetic field to switch 100,000 times a second.

When a conductive material called a work piece, is placed in a changing magnetic field, such as that produced by an AC current, voltage will be induced in the work piece (Faraday’s Law). The induced voltage will result in a flow of electrons that we call a current. This means that operators such as Inductotherm can control the frequency of the current in the work piece by controlling the frequency of the current in the coil.

As current flows through a medium, such as the work piece, there will be some resistance to the movement of the electrons and this resistance manifests as heat. This is known as the Joule Heating Effect. Materials that are more resistant to the flow of electrons will give off more heat as current flows through them, and careful control of power, frequency, and coil geometry allows the companies such as Eco-Gen and Inductotherm to design equipment with high levels of process control and reliability regardless of the application.

What Eco-Gen have done, is reapply the technology to heat water rather than metal, and to design the technology to work at much lower temperatures to maximise efficiencies. The Eco-Gen Joulebox thus manipulates the current to a range of frequencies between 2000-3000Hz and that current then harmoniously interacts with a highly resistant alloy being used as the workpiece, and the heat energy being generated then passes through to distilled water being piped through the pressure vessel through which all this is housed. This pressure vessel further enhances the thermodynamic efficiencies of the whole process, and then once the water has been converted into saturated steam, it then leaves the pressure vessel and passes through an industrial scale turbine to produce electricity.

The steam is then captured by a heat exchanger and recycled back into the pressure vessel via a distillation tank, and this water – now very hot – requires minimal energy input to convert it back into saturated steam to continue driving the turbine.

The net result of this process is a coefficient of performance of approximately ten, meaning that only ten percent of the electricity generated is required to keep the JouleBox operational, while ninety percent of the electricity generated can be fed into the grid.

The fascinating thing is that Faraday discovered induction nearly 200 years ago, and it has taken all this time for someone to combine advanced materials science with the physics, electromagnetism and power electronics in a way that enables us to generate cheap, clean energy that is hugely scalable. That someone, Paul Boaventura Delanoe, has been developing the technology for the past ten years, and is finally launching his JouleBox technology as the leading product in Eco-Gen’s power plant portfolio.

The advantages are many and varied. Paul Boaventura’s Eco-Gen JouleBox can produce 100MW for every acre of land it uses. It provides a constant baseload power. It uses a synchronous generator which means it provides very high grid inertia, giving the grid the kind of stability that renewable technologies such as wind and solar just cannot provide without expensive storage technologies. The JouleBox can also be installed in any location without limitation, and because it features an industry leading power factor of 99%, it massively reduces the transmission losses that are normally associated with traditional power generation. Eco-Gen’s JouleBox technology also pumps out an incredibly pure signal, with a Total Harmonic Distortion of under five percent. This will be incredibly attractive to any and all clients that wish to preserve their equipment into the long term.

For all these reasons and more, Paul Delanoe’s innovative take on established induction heating technology means that the JouleBox now represents our planet’s greatest hope for overcoming the egregious levels of carbonisation we humans are currently imposing on our world with our energy production. At present, Eco-Gen’s production capacity is limited to 5GW per annum, but Paul Boaventura Delanoe has plans to significantly ramp up production capacity over the next couple of years so that the company can stay on top of its commitment to tackle climate change in a way that benefits everyone in the world. Finally we have a solution that will help us make our fossil fuel dependence a thing of the past.

Adil Husnain

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