12 Feb 2010 00:00:00.000
Scientists from The University of Nottingham have proved that a lightweight stainless steel based alloy fibre material — currently used to silence exhaust systems in high-performance cars and motorcycles — could increase the burn time of an open fire by as much as 30 percent.
An estimated 200,000 UK households still use inefficient open fires as a form of domestic heating. It is hoped that the high temperature resistant mesh called CoalmiserTM developed by the Nottinghamshire based company Fibre Technology Ltd (Fibretech), could benefit many thousands of people living in fuel poverty — by enabling the coal’s heat to be released over a much longer period of time.
Fibretech, based at Pinxton in Nottinghamshire, approached the Environmental Technology Centre at the University after discovering this new application for its Rapid Solidification Technology (RST) for stainless steel fibres. Six of the high-tech metal pads would be needed over a winter lasting from the beginning of September to the end of May, at a cost of less than ten pounds each. The company is also planning to offer a recycling scheme.
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Founded in 2000 The Environmental Technology Centre receives European Funding through the ERDF (European Regional Development Fund) programme to help small to medium sized businesses across the East Midlands access grounding breaking and internationally acclaimed research facilities to help them develop more efficient use of resources, environmentally friendly working practises and the use of cleaner and more sustainable technologies.
The research was carried out by Dr Mike Clifford and PhD student Joel Chaney in the Faculty of Engineering in collaboration with Arthur Scott from National Energy Action. It showed that when the mesh was placed over the grate of a domestic open fire, or replaced the grate altogether, the fire lasted 30 percent longer with only a slight reduction in fire temperature.
Dr Mike Clifford said: “The results from these tests suggest that this material could be useful to keep domestic coal fires burning longer without significantly reducing the temperature. I’m also interested in the impact of this material could have in reducing wood consumption in stoves used for cooking in poor countries.”
Lee Marston, Technology Manager of Fibretech said: “The CoalmiserTM has been proven to reduce solid fuel consumption and lower carbon dioxide emissions. The work done at The Univeristy of Nottingham is also supported by field tests carried out through the NEA who campaign for warm homes and aim to eliminate fuel poverty in the UK. The average home would use 5 or 6 CoalmisersTM per year costing £9.99 each, but would save the average solid fuel user £45 per month. We also want to encourage recycling of the product by using recycled packaging and offering a free CoalmiserTM for every 4 sent back to us for recycling. The CO2 savings are potentially immense, and could be 490,000 tonnes less of CO2 pumped into the atmosphere per year from solid fuel domestic heating. This product is a derivative of the MicrotexTM range of high performance alloys, and we will be launching a similar product for use in summer BBQs, which can be used in exactly the same way with the added benefit of helping to cook food more evenly.”
Dr.Gérald Busca, Project Officer at the ETC, said: “With our support and advice, Fibretech was able to test the idea and prove that it did keep the fuel burning for longer. It was clear that this could be a viable and cost effective improvement to open coal fires. It will make a considerable difference to people who are spending a significant proportion of their money on heating their homes.”
Arthur Scott said: "More than five million people cannot afford to heat their homes to an acceptable level and for those living in rural areas the problem is made worse by not having access to the cheapest fuel. The heat pad can help those who rely on coal fires for warmth to use their fuel more efficiently and gain more heat out of their fuel."
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Notes to editor
s: The University of Nottingham is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 100 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and Times Higher (THE) World University Rankings.
More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to RAE 2008, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranks the University 7th in the UK by research power. In 27 subject areas, the University features in the UK Top Ten, with 14 of those in the Top Five.
The University provides innovative and top quality teaching, undertakes world-changing research, and attracts talented staff and students from 150 nations. Described by The Times as Britain's "only truly global university", it has invested continuously in award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. Twice since 2003 its research and teaching academics have won Nobel Prizes. The University has won the Queen's Award for Enterprise in both 2006 (International Trade) and 2007 (Innovation – School of Pharmacy), and was named ‘Entrepreneurial University of the Year’ at the Times Higher Education Awards 2008.
Nottingham was designated as a Science City in 2005 in recognition of its rich scientific heritage, industrial base and role as a leading research centre. Nottingham has since embarked on a wide range of business, property, knowledge transfer and educational initiatives (www.science-city.co.uk) in order to build on its growing reputation as an international centre of scientific excellence. The University of Nottingham is a partner in Nottingham: the Science City.