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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/Y00888X/1
Title: Towards smart manufacturing: Responsive Gas-Solid Vortex Chambers. (REVOC)
Principal Investigator: Francia, Dr V
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Particulate Solid Research Inc. (PSRI)
Department: Sch of Engineering and Physical Science
Organisation: Heriot-Watt University
Scheme: New Investigator Award
Starts: 01 July 2024 Ends: 30 June 2027 Value (£): 584,822
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Design of Process systems Particle Technology
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Manufacturing Energy
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
31 Jan 2024 Engineering Prioritisation Panel Meeting 31 January and 1 February 2024 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form

Finding an efficient way to put in contact gases and solids is essential for many of the operations in the manufacturing and energy industries. Powders are often primary products e.g. chemicals, fast moving consumer goods (FMCG), or key materials e.g. biomass, adsorbents, oxygen carriers, catalysts. Process intensification looks into ways of making gas-solid contact devices compact, use energy efficiently and generate less waste. As we transition into clean energies and the decarbonisation of industry, the need for new materials and processes accelerates. In the next decade we will rely in digitalization and the access to a vast amount of data to improve control, but also to predict the potential of new initiatives, emerging technology, and changes in the supply chain. We will need to be able to reconfigure existing processes, absorb or discard new materials, quickly and without unrealistic investments. This means that new contact devices can no longer simply focus on the optimisation of the rigid conception of the classic unit operations. Design must be flexible. Units must be efficient, but also robust and responsive, designed to adapt to changing targets, multiple functions, be retrofitted, and integrated within advance control strategies.

In this award, I put forward a new class of responsive technology: Responsive gas-solid Vortex Chambers (REVOC), that can adapt in real-time to changing conditions to maximise the efficiency of gas-solid processes in the manufacturing (e.g. advance coating), and energy sectors (e.g. Power-to-X reactors). Swirl has been used for long in intensification to improve the transfer of heat and mass between a gas and a solid. High-g devices (those creating a very strong swirling motion) are the most efficient and can process cohesive material, otherwise hard to mix. However, they are also difficult to design and often, hard to scale. Gas-solid vortex reactors (GSVRs) create a fast-rotating fluidized bed without any moving parts. They have shown great potential as catalytic reactors and their simplicity makes them easy to deploy, but they are not broadly applicable. Like most chambers, GSVRs are conceived for a given type of feedstock, and do not cope well with changes in loading (e.g. adding a liquid), solid properties (e.g. diameter), or when the powder features a broad range of size, or different formulations (e.g. foods, drugs, fuels). This project puts forward a new design concept whereby a vortex chamber becomes responsive and able to adapt its operation to the needs of the process, controlling, in-real time the dispersion of any feedstock. A REVOC is broadly applicable, more flexible, more robust, it can complete different functions and sequential processes. During this project, we will produce prototypes and use them to validate a modelling platform. We will deliver a radial chamber expanding the traditional concept into a responsive mode. We will then use a digital twin of the unit to optimise the design using several flow compartments. The optimal REVOC will then be commissioned, characterised, and applied to fluidised industrial products (excipients, foods, absorbents, solid fuels), settings the grounds for its application at scale.

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Organisation Website: http://www.hw.ac.uk