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New purification technology saves a lot of energy

28 Sep 2014

TNO has been working on a highly efficient, energy-saving technology for purifying chemicals for fifteen years. It is now ready to be marketed worldwide. And customers are provided with support at every stage of the implementation process.

Purifying end-products is a vital step in virtually every chemical process. Contaminants need to be removed from products as far as possible in order to achieve the desired quality. The drawback of many purification technologies is that they are highly energy-intensive, and they require large, inflexible plants. TNO has developed the Hydraulic Wash Column (HWC). In combination with melt crystallization this can achieve 99% purity in a single step. The energy saving compared with current technologies is a minimum of 20% and can be as much as 90%. Another not insignificant benefit is that the HWC is easily scalable and can be used on both a large and a small scale. The company SoliQz has been set up to market HWC technology. 'Chemical firms can experiment with the Hydraulic Wash Column in a lab environment. The next step is for them to integrate the technology in their processes on an industrial scale', says SoliQz CEO Nicolaas Viets. 'We provide them with support.'

Simplicity

The wash column is connected to the output of a melt crystallizer and removes the impurities from the product by washing it against the flow. Over fifty small-scale pilots have been carried out for customers in recent years and the technology has now been scaled up to industrial scale. A good example is a plant delivered to Solvay in Bernburg (Germany) in 2011 that produces high-purity phosphoric acid. 'TNO's development work on the HWC in recent years has demonstrated that this technology has added value in a large number of chemical industries', says Viets. 'The advantage of the HWC is that the technology is robust and easily scalable. We can predict with good probability from an eight-centimetre pilot what form the commercial production process should take. Viets envisages applications in the electronics industry, also in the production of biobased monomers and eventually in pharmaceutical processes. He describes the HWC's potential as 'tremendous'.

Bespoke solutions essential

Zeton is building the HWC plants. This originally Canadian company is skilled in the construction of modular pilots and demo and production plants. Besides its Canadian operation it has a facility in Enschede. Maurice Bodegom of Zeton: 'The partnership between SoliQz and Zeton enables potential customers to be supported throughout the implementation process. Zeton is used to dealing with particular customer wishes and requirements and translating them into a design and plant to meet them, from lab scale to industrial scale. And we've been working for the chemical industry worldwide for many years.' Nicolaas Viets adds: 'Bespoke solutions are essential. No two companies or production processes are the same. Flexibility is important when purifying chemicals. SoliQz, Zeton and TNO not only offer technology, as we can build both small and large-scale purification plants; our added value lies in the fact that we facilitate everything that's needed, making us a full-service provide.'

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