Glass and the energy reform: Sustainable production thanks to electricity?

Hexbyte Glen Cove

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2022 is the international year of glass. And yet many glass factories are struggling to survive. High energy costs and considerable CO2 emissions mean that glass production faces a challenging future. Researchers at FAU and Technische Hochshchule Nürnberg Georg Simon Ohm are currently conducting research aimed at finding a solution to make glass production more sustainable without relying on fossil fuels. Their approach is based on electrically operated furnaces.

“We use far more in our everyday lives than we realize, sometimes colored, sometimes transparent, for a whole range of different functions,” says Prof. Dr. Dominique de Ligny from the Chair of Glass and Ceramics at FAU. “Not only for windows, but also for our smartphone screens, for storage jars, in rotary blades in wind turbines or in the production of lasers.”

Producing glass requires large amounts of energy. In order to produce glass, various raw materials have to be heated in a at temperatures of over 1600 degrees Celsius. This high temperature is achieved by burning , but large quantities of CO2 are released in the process. Rising prices for natural gas mean that glass factories are facing huge increases in manufacturing costs. In the meantime, account for more than 40% of total costs, whereas before 2020 they only accounted for 14%.

A trend that is already placing several glass factories at the brink of closure.

Melting glass using electricity

Together with Prof. Dr. Sven Wiltzsch from the Faculty of Materials Engineering at TH Nürnberg, Prof. Dr. Dominique de Ligny has already been researching into methods to make glass production more sustainable and independent of fossils fuels since 2020. One option is to heat furnaces with electricity instead of natural gas. In order to heat the raw material using electricity, electrodes are attached to the edge of the glass melting pot. Electricity flows between the electrodes, transferring energy to the material and causing it to start to melt.

“If we presume that we will be able to use in future, that would make this method much more sustainable. This process would only release very small amounts of CO2, as purely electricity-based melting processes do not involve any combustion. Side products such as CO2 or would no longer be released,” explains Prof. Wiltzsch. “If the furnace is operated using electricity, less energy is lost than is the case when converting hydrogen, for example. The system is therefore more efficient.”

Blue glass instead of brown glass

During their experiments, however, the researchers came across a problem: their method is not suitable for producing brown glass, but brown glass is vital for certain purposes. Brown glass is required, for example, to store medicine and foodstuffs, as it protects them from UV rays.

The reason why the method is not suitable for producing brown glass is the high concentration of oxygen in electric furnaces. In traditional furnaces, the atmosphere is low in oxygen, but in an electric oven, are high. The high concentration of oxygen in the furnace changes at the level of the atoms, producing blue rather than brown glass.

Nicole Ostermeier is investigating the special atomic properties of brown glass in her Bachelor’s thesis. She is studying applied at TH Nürnberg, and is carrying out research at FAU into why brown glass loses its color and how the melting process changes when electricity is used.

“If we understood the effect oxygen has on the color of the glass, we would also be able to produce brown glass using electrodes, making the entire glass production process more sustainable,” say Prof. de Ligny and Prof. Wiltzsch.



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Glass and the energy reform: Sustainable production thanks to electricity? (2022, May 23)
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Hexbyte Glen Cove Case of African swine fever confirmed in northern taly

Hexbyte Glen Cove

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A case of African swine fever has been detected in a wild boar in Italy, the region of Piedmont said Friday, in a potential blow to the country’s meat industry.

It is the first reported case on Italy’s mainland since the virus arrived in Western Europe in 2018.

Highly transmissible and fatal for pig populations, African swine fever (ASF) does not present a risk for human health, but risks serious repercussions for pork producers.

Italy, with about 8.9 million pigs, is the seventh biggest pork producer in the European Union, representing an 8 billion euro ($9.1 billion) industry, according to the agricultural association Confagricoltura.

Piedmont’s regional health department confirmed the case following tests on a wild boar which was found dead in Ovada in the northern region.

Italy’s national reference centre for swine fever “confirmed the suspicion of infection with African swine fever” said the department in a statement.

As per protocol, crisis units were being set up at the local, regional and national level, while meetings were being held with authorities in veterinary services, forest management and wildlife and hunting, it said.

“We are acting with the utmost timeliness, the immediate and coordinated implementation of control measures in wild suids (pigs) is essential in an attempt to confine and eradicate the disease as much as possible,” said Piedmont’s health deputy, Luigi Icardi.

‘Extremely damaging’

In Italy, African swine fever has been endemic on the island of Sardinia since first appearing in 1978.

Having existed in Africa for decades, the disease spread to China—the world’s largest pork producer—in 2018, causing millions of pigs to be slaughtered to prevent an epidemic.

In western Europe, the virus was reported in Belgium in 2018, prompting China to ban Belgian pork imports.

After Germany confirmed its first case in a dead wild boar in 2020, China, Japan and South Korea, alongside Brazil and Argentina, also suspended German pork imports.

Italy’s health ministry will notify the World Organisation of Animal Health (OIE) and the European Commission about the case, reported news agency ANSA.

In a December 3 situation report on the virus, the OIE said ASF has been reported in 32 countries in five different world regions since January 2020, affecting more than one million pigs and more than 28,000 wild boar.

“The events observed in the last six months confirm the global threat of ASF, which continues to spread with serious impacts on pig production systems, animal health and welfare, as well as the socio-economic impacts on livelihoods, national food security and international trade,” the report said.

After Germany’s first case, Confagricoltura said Italy had activated a EU-approved surveillance and prevention plan since early 2020.

On Friday, the Piedmont branch of Confagricoltura said Italy must do all it can to prevent the virus from spreading and called for redoubled efforts for a wild boar culling programme.



© 2022 AFP

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Stabilized blue phase crystals could lead to new optical technologies

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Stabilized blue phase liquid crystals, developed by Prof. Juan de Pablo and his team, can reflect blue and green light, and can be switched on and off incredibly quickly, opening the door to faster response times in optical technologies. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Liquid crystals already provide the basis for successful technologies like LCD displays, and researchers continue to create specific kinds of liquid crystals for even better optical devices and applications.

Juan de Pablo, Liew Family Professor of Molecular Engineering at the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME) at the University of Chicago, and his team have now found a way to create and stabilize so-called “blue phase liquid crystals,” which have the properties of both liquids and crystals, and can in some cases reflect better than ordinary liquid crystals.

The results, published in ACS Nano, could lead to new optical technologies with better response times.

A new method for stabilizing blue phase crystals

Thanks to their uniform molecular orientation, liquid crystals are already the basis for many display technologies, including those in digital displays for computers and televisions. In this research, de Pablo and his team were interested in chiral liquid crystals, which have a certain asymmetrical “handedness”—like right-handedness or left-handedness—that allows them to exhibit a wider and more interesting range of optical behaviors.

Importantly, these crystals can form blue phase crystals, which because of their unique structure, can reflect blue and green light, and can be switched on and off incredibly quickly. But these crystals only exist in a small range of temperatures and are inherently unstable: Heating them up even one degree can destroy their properties. That has limited their use in technologies.

Through simulation and experiments, the team was able to stabilize the blue phase crystals through the formation of so-called double emulsions. They used a small core droplet of a water-based solution surrounded by an outer droplet of an oily chiral , thereby creating a “core and shell” structure. That structure was itself suspended in another water-based liquid, unmixable with the liquid crystal. Over the appropriate range of temperatures, they were able to trap the chiral liquid crystal in the shell in a “blue phase” state. They then formed a polymer network within the shell, which stabilized the blue crystal without destroying its properties.

Creating perfect crystals

The team then showed that they could change the temperature of the blue phase crystal by 30 degrees without destroying it. Not only that, the process formed perfect, uniform blue phase crystals, which allowed the researchers to better predict and control their behavior.

“Now that we understand these materials and can control them, we can take advantage of their unique optical properties,” de Pablo said. “The next step is deploying them in devices and to demonstrate their usefulness.”

Potential applications include display technologies that could be turned on and off with very small changes in size, temperature, or exposure to light, or sensors that can detect radiation within a certain wavelength.



More information:
Monirosadat Sadati et al, Control of Monodomain Polymer-Stabilized Cuboidal Nanocrystals of Chiral Nematics by Confinement, ACS Nano (2021). DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.1c04231

Citation:
Stabilized blue phase crystals could lead to new optical technologies (2021, November 2)
retrieved 2 November 2021
from https://phys.org/news/2021-11-stabilized-blue-phase-crystals-optical.html

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