Game-changing heat pipe technology answers global waste problem

March 8, 2017 by Hayley Jarvis

Brunel University London and Mission Resources limited are developing an innovative low-temperature pyrolysis treatment to convert household waste into fuel to heat water.

A self-contained Home Energy Recovery Unit (HERU) could make every home a micro-power plant, save families up to 15% on fuel bills and solve the global problem at source.

From lunch-time leftovers to dirty nappies, it turns all sorts of waste into a clean, sustainable fuel that can heat water for the home. The oxygen-free heating process, pyrolysis, uses leading-edge controllable heat pipe technology to produce energy-rich combustible char, gas and liquid fuels.

A working prototype funded by UK waste management company, Mission Resources won further support from Innovate UK's £1.5m Energy Game Changer fund for development, trials and on-site testing.

"Waste management is one of the most crucial challenges developed countries face," said co-inventor, Dr Hassam Jouhara. "Rising fuel costs leave so many households with the difficult decision of whether to eat or to heat their home and countries worldwide are being urged to cut carbon consumption. The vision is to solve this global problem and slash energy bills while producing energy for heating from waste that is otherwise a burden on local authorities and households."

By removing the need for bin collections, Dr Jouhara believes the system could slash the UK's carbon footprint for waste disposal by over 70% and save local authorities millions. Already four and a multi-national bank have opted to trial the device in the UK.

The self-contained unit is the size of a wheelie bin. Connected to the water main and drainage, it sits just outside the house and runs off a normal 13-amp domestic plug. And for every 1kWh of energy needed to power it unit, 2.5kWh of energy is generated, making it extremely efficient.

"We're thrilled to have the ongoing support of Brunel University London," said Nik Spencer, Mission Resources' CEO and co-inventor of the HERU concept. "The on-site test facility will go a long way in helping us expand HERU's scope and potential.

"Back when we started, we needed a technology capability that had never been achieved before in a commercial setting, as such we approached Brunel and have worked closely with Dr Jouhara and his team ever since. The relationship has provided us with access to industry-leading facilities, but also to the solutions and ideas of world expert in heat pipes."

Explore further: Safer, greener, cheaper route to ultra-cold freezers

More information: H. Jouhara et al. Heat pipe based municipal waste treatment unit for home energy recovery, Energy (2017). DOI: 10.1016/j.energy.2017.02.044

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