Integrated Thermal Energy Reduction, Recovery & Re-use in Autoclave based Composites Processing

Solutions developed

The heat will be stored in a specially designed thermal store at the highest enthalpy possible to maximise opportunities for re-use. We aim to reduce initial energy use in the autoclave by at least 25% through reduction of the autoclave headspace and recover 50% of the energy wasted at the end of the autoclave processing stage for re-use in other energy intensive heating processes such as the post cure process. In addition, we aim to recover compressed air (with its intrinsic compression energy and heat from the autoclave) and heat from the air compressors that create the 7 to 10 bar pressure and integrate this with the system.

Main results

The ENRSYS consortium has developed an integrated computer controlled, energy recovery, reuse and thermal management system for use in single or multiple Autoclave processing technologies. The technology is designed to be adapted to bespoke autoclave applications as used in the aerospace and automotive sectors. By using specific measured data from a target application, the energy recovery and system payback time for the ENRSYS technology can be calculated. The ENRSYS system utilises the remaining heat energy from the end of an autoclave process cycle by passing that energy to thermal storage tanks. The control system closely monitors the temperature profiles of a given autoclave or autoclave systems and feeds the heat energy back in to the system through the use of heat-pumps. The ENRSYS technology thus gives two major benefits; firstly reduced energy costs for the end-user and secondly shorter processing times through a higher optimisation of temperature profiles. To demonstrate the potential a study has been undertaken of the autoclave processing cycles and associated energy costs of a client interested in using the ENRSYS technology. Results from the trials indicate a potential energy saving of €155,800 and energy efficiency up-to 87%, the payback time is achievable within 3 years.