Refractory materials are indispensable for industrial furnaces, since they are used to produce light metals and steels that have to withstand high temperatures, even in excess of 1500 °C. Around 32 million tons of used refractory materials are generated worldwide every year, of which only a fraction is recycled. The focus of current research is on the processing of used refractory materials, since the production of refractory materials from primary raw materials is carbon-intensive, but there are currently no significant alternatives to these raw materials.
In the ReSoURCE project, experts from nine European companies and institutes are working together to promote the development of sustainable recycling solutions for refractory materials. At the heart of the project is an automatic sorting system for used refractory materials, which is intended to determine the ingredients of the used material without contact using LIBS (laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy). The refractory products must be individually adapted to customer requirements, so factors such as the intended use, manufacturing process or chemical properties of the media play an important role.
“This means that our products have very different compositions. Before recycling, we therefore must separate them as precisely as possible,” explains Alexander Leitner from RHI Magnesita, ReSoURCE project coordinator.
Use of laser technology
The medium-sized company Laser Analytical Systems & Automation GmbH (LSA) from Aachen, a subsidiary of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT, supplies the laser technology used for laser spectroscopy.
LSA has specialized in real-time analysis systems for industrial applications that use pulsed laser radiation. The chemical composition of the moving product is measured with a flash of light without it having to leave the processing line, explains the Managing Director of LSA, Dr. Joachim Makowe. The laser source for the ReSoURCE project is being developed by the company InnoLas Laser GmbH from Krailling in Germany.
“We can probably use this to reduce European CO2 emissions by up to 800,000 tons per year. This is a wonderful example of how technology and innovation and a community project can help in the fight against climate change. Cord Fricke-Begemann, Head of Materials Analysis at Fraunhofer ILT.
Significant increase in the proportion of recycling
According to the first project results, an increase in the proportion of recycling in the industry from the previous 7-30 percent to 90 percent could be achieved. With around 32 million tons of refractory materials produced globally every year, the ecological and social benefits are considerable.
The project is funded under the Horizon Europe framework program and is scheduled to run until November 2025. The project management lies with RHI Magnesita. Other partners involved in the project are LSA GmbH (D), Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT (D), SINTEF (NOR), Montanuniversität Leoben (AT), Innolas Laser GmbH (D), NEO (NOR), CPI (UK) and Crowd helix (IRE).