Cheshire-based company Rothon Research Limited (RRL) has taken advantage of the Eco-Innovation scheme to team up with the University of Chester’s Department of Chemical Engineering to investigate the recovery of useful colloidal silica products from geothermal power operations.
This will both improve the efficiency of the power plants and provide a sustainable source of colloidal silica.
The Eco-Innovation project is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund and is partnered with Lancaster University.
Ahsen Senturk, a research student at the University said: “Silica is often dissolved in the water feeding these plants at levels that inhibit their efficiency.
“The New Zealand company Geo40 has now developed and proved technology for removing this silica in the form of a stable colloidal dispersion – a process that is already being successfully commercialised. Roll out of this technology will generate large amounts of colloidal silica dispersions for which new markets will be required.”
Colloidal silica derived solids are used in a large number of applications, including: desiccants; filtration; catalysis; health and personal care and polymer reinforcement. A notable large volume use is in car tyres, where it substitutes carbon black, resulting in significant fuel savings and emission reduction. Another use is as an environmentally acceptable replacement for the plastic micro-bead exfoliants used in many personal care products.
Dr Andrew Fogg is Senior Lecturer in Chemical Engineering at the University of Chester and is academic lead on the project. He said: “As an experienced inorganic chemist, I’m very excited to be applying my skills to low carbon technologies. We are using materials chemistry to develop new recycling and other low carbon processes. Today most of the silica used for the above applications is made by energy intensive, non-sustainable routes, but could be replaced by the more sustainable geothermally sourced silica. We are developing methods to convert the colloidal silica into controlled microstructure solids suitable for the various markets.”
RRL founder and Director Roger Rothon said: “We are delighted with the opportunity to work with our local University and with Andrew Fogg and Ahsen Senturk. They have made great progress in helping us to investigate new processes and product forms and we look forward to extending our collaboration with Chester beyond the present project.”
Image caption: Project student Ahsen Senturk working in the labs at Thornton Science Park with Roger Rothon of Rothon Research Limited.