Nanotech Products Increase Efficiency and Energy Saving

More than 800 manufacturer-identified nanotech products are publicly available, with three to four new ones hitting the market each week.
By KHATEREH A. PISHRO & FRANCESCA M. CROLLEY | January 04, 2010
The biofuel industry has been on a roller coaster ride lately. Those in the industry are now in survival mode, working to keep plants and facilities profitable, reducing costs and protecting assets while they await a predicted upswing in the market. Despite the current condition of the industry, experts at Pike Research expect biodiesel and ethanol markets to triple by 2020, utilizing fuels based upon advanced feedstocks.

A potential solution is found in one of today's newest sciences—nanotechnology, which is the study of the control of matter on an atomic or molecular scale. Nanotechnology generally deals with structures 100 nanometers or smaller and involves the development of materials or devices of that size. Nanotechnology is very diverse, ranging from novel extensions of conventional device physics, to completely new approaches based upon molecular self-assembly, to developing new materials with dimensions on the nanoscale, even to speculation on whether scientists can directly control matter on the atomic level.

Nansulate coatings, patented and manufactured by Industrial Nanotech Inc., are materials based on nanotechnology that offer combined benefits not possible with conventional materials. The coatings offer an energy efficient and environmentally friendly method to insulate, prevent corrosion and even reduce carbon emissions on all types of tanks, piping and equipment such as boilers, steam lines, heat exchangers and processing tanks. But better yet, they are affordable, meaning the payback time is short (typically reported between 6 and 18 months), and can be implemented incrementally.

How Nansulate Works
Nansulate coatings incorporate a nanocomposite with an extremely low thermal conductivity. Passage of thermal energy through an insulating material is an attempt by hotter, fast-vibrating molecules to transfer energy to cooler, slow-vibrating molecules in order to reach equilibrium. It occurs in three ways: solid conductivity, gaseous conductivity, and radiative (infrared) transmission. The total of these is the thermal conductivity of the patented material.

Thermal conduction through the solid portion is hindered by the tiny size of the connections between the particles making up the conduction path and the solids that are present, which consist of very small particles linked in a three-dimensional network (with many "dead-ends"). Therefore, thermal transfer through the solid portion occurs through a very complicated maze and is not very effective. Air and gas in the material can inherently also transport thermal energy, but the gas molecules within the matrix experience what is known as the Knudsen effect, and the exchange of energy is virtually eliminated.

Conduction is limited because the "tunnels" are only the size of the mean-free path for molecular collisions; (smaller than a wave of light), and molecules collide with the solid network as frequently as they collide with each other. The unique structure, comprised of nanometer-sized cells, pores, and particles results in poor thermal conduction. Radiative conduction is low due to small mass fractions and large surface areas.

The properties that make the material a poor heat conductor make it an effective insulation that can be coated onto a variety of surfaces to reduce heat loss or gain and energy consumption.
Three coats of Nansulate reduce thermal flow by 34.8 percent in laboratory tests. In addition, Nansulate has excellent corrosion protection, and when used in applications on metal eliminates the corrosion under installation (CUI) problem that many other traditional insulations cause.

Evaporation/Vaporization
Nansulate patented technology can also be an effective insulation in a high humidity environment. One large petrochemical facility needed to prevent corrosion of carbon steel tanks and stop vaporization of methanol by insulating tanks efficiently. Methanol evaporates at 64.7 degrees Celsius (148 degrees Fahrenheit). When the methanol reaches the storage tanks, the temperature of the liquid is 15 C and the goal is that it should not exceed 33 C. The chemical plant's location in the Middle East, where humidity levels are between 75 percent and 90 percent, makes traditional insulation materials impractical to use because fast absorption of moisture would cause CUI. A layered application of two coats of Nansulate High Heat and one application of Nansulate Top Coat (tinted blue) was spray-applied to the large methanol tanks. Nansulate stopped vaporization of methanol and offered corrosion protection and resistance to moisture penetration.

Implementing this type of insulating material in biofuel production facilities noticeably reduces surface temperature to safer levels in addition to reducing heat loss, thereby saving money and energy. Spray-applying Nansulate paint to hot water pipelines or tanks, insulates and provides corrosion protection under insulation and moisture resistance at the same time. Energy and cost savings are the main reasons manufacturers in the textile industry and many others are utilizing this technology in their plants, and planning to coat equipment, walls and ceilings to save on heating and cooling costs. Nansulate has proven to be an energy saving solution for more than five years. Industrial customers receive payback on their investment in as little as 6 to 18 months on average and energy-savings are documented at an average of 20 percent. Affordability and the fact that the technology is green and low in volatile organic compounds, make it one that every plant manager should consider for cost savings.

Biofuel companies looking for solutions to keep their doors open and their facilities running while waiting out the economic storm can benefit from the combination of solutions this technology provides: reduced energy costs, reduced product evaporation and corrosion resistance. With payback being seen so quickly, the technology offers an attractive and easy-to-apply solution for many who are in need of fast fixes to return their plants to profitability. EP

Khatereh A. Pishro is a bioprocess & chemical engineer and co-founder and R&D manager at Nanofan Industrial Coatings, F.Z.E. Reach her at UAE@nanofan.net
Francesca M. Crolley is vice president of business development at Industrial Nanotech, Inc. Reach her at fcrolley@industrial-nanotech.com