500 Dutch homes are heated with ‘reusable’ iron powder

No coal, no gas, no electricity, not even hydrogen, but iron powder to heat 500 homes in the Netherlands. Iron powder can be a clean and reusable energy carrier. The Dutch are going to test it to heat homes.

It is possible to heat your home with an iron instead of gas. The start-up RIFT and Ennatuurlijk create a test system to supply 500 homes with iron powder.


Sustainable alternative to fossil fuels.

The company RIFT (Renewable Iron Fuel Technology) at the Technical University of Eindhoven wants to use combustible iron globally as a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels to reduce CO2 emissions.

The pilot project she is carrying out with Ennatuurlijk is an important step towards achieving this goal. In the Dutch town of Helmond, the company is working on a pilot boiler with a capacity of 1 MW. This boiler can be used, via the Ennatuurlijk heating network, to heat 500 households.

An infinite system.

The system works as follows: the iron powder is burned in the boiler. In this process, a lot of heat is released, for example for heating networks.

What’s left is rust dust. This can be converted back into iron powder using hydrogen, which in turn “charges” the powder and creates a circular fuel.

The company is building a pilot plant for these two components. The first boiler to burn iron powder will be installed at Helmond. The system that converts rust powder into iron powder is located in Arnhem. It is the first of its kind.

Industrial processes and heating networks require large amounts of energy. Sustainable alternatives, such as electricity and hydrogen, cannot always provide this. Our grids are not designed to deliver so much electricity to industry on top of current usage in such a short time. Therefore, in these sectors, alternatives such as iron powder are really important.

Mark Verhagen, CEO of RIFT

Without CO2 and with less nitrogen.

In this process, no CO2 is released. In addition, the nitrogen emissions during the process are much lower than those of coal or gas.

Iron fuel also offers a number of benefits. On the one hand, it has a high energy density. One cubic meter of iron contains as much energy as eleven cubic meters of high pressure hydrogen. It is also much safer to store and transport than hydrogen. Finally, it does not lose power during storage.

Student team.

The start-up RIFT was born from the team of SOLID students from the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e).

The team has been working with university researchers on the technology behind combustible iron since 2015.

The student team tested the technology in 2020 at the Swinkels family brewery factory. The iron fuel produced the heat needed for the brewing process. There they were able to demonstrate that the technology works. With the current pilot, they want to show that he also has commercial potential.

Scale up.

In two years, RIFT wants to build a 5 MW iron-fired power plant. For this, a letter of intent has already been signed to collaborate with Veolia Industrial Services.

With the current one megawatt pilot, we study the most important components of the plant in a commercial setting. Then we can continue to optimize the system and expand it to a five megawatt system.

I see iron as an important sustainable alternative to fossil fuels, alongside wind turbines, solar panels and hydrogen. Our goal is to be able to decarbonize heavy industry around the world with combustible iron.

Marc Verhagen

More information: www.ironfueltechnology.com

Going through edu.rsc.org

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