December 11, 2000

A New Generation Pulse Combustion (NGPC) technology developed by CSIRO of Australia is finding a place for itself in the market.

The technology makes use of sound waves to produce energy more efficiently than conventional systems while keeping the exhaust and gas emissions very low. Two contracts with industry have been signed for the development of the technology for applications ranging from power generation to petrochemical liquid heating.

PCT Ltd, a company based in Perth, Australia is one of the companies to have signed a contract with CSIRO for the development of the Pulse Combustion Technology for steam and power generation. Another Australia based company is known to have signed up with CSIRO to develop the NGP technology to convert gas from municipal waste to electricity.

CSIRO is known to be in talks with 15 other local and overseas companies for further applications of this technology which includes commercial water heating, petrochemical refinery heating applications, food ovens and rotary kilns. As part of the first stage of the PCT project, a 500kw pulse combustion boiler unit is currently being built at CSIRO Thermal & Fluids Engineering Laboratory. The details of its operation and development are expected to be available by February 2001.

After that PCT will build a 10MW unit at a place of its choice. The energy in CSIRO’s NGPC process is produced by the pulsating effect of sound waves. Therefore the flame produced is much more intense and cleaner than produced by a conventional methods, resulting in significantly greater heat production. Since the pulsating effect also results in “natural” recirculation of unburnt and partially burnt exhaust gases, noxious emissions are reduced to levels far below the strictest environmental standards. It is possible to attain zero levels of total hydrocarbon (THC) and carbon monoxide (CO) in the exhaust.

The burner need not be continuously supplied combustion air by a fan, as it is self-aspirating. NGPC’s resonant driving locks the combustion instability into a very stable repetitive pattern. The micro vibrations generated clean the equipment making its maintenance an easy task. Reduced sound levels are obtained by operating each pulse combustor out of phase with its partner.

While the pulse combustion technology is itself not a new concept, controlled flame of a pulse combustor is. The biggest problem with pulse combustion so far was that the heat and flame generated would often be too high and uncontrollable. Keeping the pulsing flame burning at low levels, as is often necessary, was a daunting task. The maximum success so far at reducing the burning rate was 10 per cent. The success of the CSIRO technology lies in the fact that these Australian scientists have succeeded in bringing the burning rate down by as much as 60 per cent, to a level that can be exploited by industries.

Besides the applications mentioned earlier, CSIRO believes that the technology can also be applied in the steel and smelting industry to power foundries, in the boilers of hospitals and other buildings where large scale water heating is required, in refrigerators, both domestic and commercial, for cooling, in the mining industry for downstream ore processing and in the food industry where spray drying is used for making skim milk products. In all these places, the use of the pulse combustion technology could yield significant savings in energy costs.

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