Decarbonising the glass industry: cleaner fuels, cleaner glass

Glass products feature in every part of our lives, from housing to broadband to food and drink. In order to make the manufacturing of glass a carbon-free process, our researchers are working with not-for-profit research and technology organisation Glass Futures.

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Glass products feature in every part of our lives, from housing to broadband to food and drink. In order to make the manufacturing of glass a carbon-free process, our researchers are working with not-for-profit research and technology organisation Glass Futures to find and implement suitable alternative fuels for glassmaking. 

Researchers from the Energy Institute and the Department of Mechanical Engineering are working with Glass Futures, in partnership with a range of other universities and industry members, to design and carry out experiments to determine the best green fuel for the glass manufacturing industry. 

Glass currently uses greenhouse gas-emitting fuels in the creation of its materials, where instead it could use alternative fuels, such as green hydrogen or biofuel, in its key processes. However, changing fuels could affect the quality of the product. The challenge is to discover fuels that work effectively and efficiently, whilst also encouraging fuel flexibility to reduce costs, and still produce the high-quality glass industry requires. 

The team from the Energy Institute are supporting the £7.1 million initiative, funded in part by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, by designing and carrying out experiments, in partnership with the wider consortium. Working with the facilities and capabilities of the Translational Energy Research Centre, Dr Janos Szuhanski produces flame characterisation experiments, supporting the team from the beginning to the end of the test campaign.

Still in its early phases, the Glass Futures project will run for several years, and will also result in a new experimental glassmaking pilot plant, the Global Centre of Excellence in St Helens. Speaking about his involvement with the project, Dr Szuhanski said: “Supporting industrial partners in their decarbonisation and sustainability goals is vital for achieving net-zero targets and for creating a greener world. By bringing academic understanding to the whole alternative fuel process, through experiments, analysis and modelling, we can provide industrial partners with the vital information they need to remove carbon and fossil fuels from glassmaking.” 

Innovation Programme Manager, Dr Palma González García, who received her PhD from the University of Sheffield, said: “The world as a whole needs to move to low carbon and highly efficient processes, and no single organisation can enable a global shift in industrial practice. Glass Futures has begun to show a new path to collaboratively pooling knowledge, resources, and effort. This very important project is already well on the way to setting new standards in low carbon glass products and demonstrates very clearly what can be achieved when the industry, partners and funders all work together.”

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