SOLPART interviews: EPPT, an SME for the development of powder processes

SOLPART interviews: EPPT, an SME for the development of powder processes

Meet the SOLPART team in our interview series in video: Jan Baeyens from EPPT (Belgium) answers 8 questions about his role in the project, challenges, achievements and the way ahead.

Interview at Odeillo solar furnace, France

Question: Tell us a bit about yourself…

Answer: I am Jan Baeyens from Belgium. I started my career in 1971 doing a PhD on powder technology, then worked in industry between 1973 and 1988 always in the same field of biotechnology being at the same time project engineer and project manager for the development of lime and dolomite plants all over the world with Carmeuse (i.e. a Belgian company). In 1989, I returned to the University to take up an academic career but only on a part-time basis and I started my own little SME called “European Powder and Process Technology” (EPPT) exactly to do what I like: the development of powder processes.

Describe your role in the SOLPART project.

The SOLPART project, like so many of the projects that we’ve done together with CNRS, involve powders. So, my role is doing the fundamental investigations on whatever handling, treatment and so on of powders are needed within the project. In that same field, for the SOLPART project, together with CNRS, we invented and developed the solar reactor to treat these mineral powders.

Why did you decide to take part in this project?

Evidently, this is a beautiful project because it’s seldomly that you get the chance to link energy, material treatment, environment and all that in one single project where lime, limestone and cement are representatives of about seven to eight per cent of the anthropogenic CO2. We have to reduce it: it’s an obligation and this project is exactly aimed to do so.

What are the most challenging aspects of your role?

The very challenging aspect of this project is the fact that these raw materials are completely out of the scope of what we normally deal with. They are so fine. Normally, we will deal in this industry with materials are millimetre-scale to about centimetre scale. For this specific application, we are dealing with cement raw milk (5 micrometres), with limestone (0 to 100 micrometres), dololime (0 to 248) and phosphate (about half a millimetre). It’s a completely different scale and the technology that is existing has to be adapted to do exactly that.

How do you overcome these challenges?

It took a long time of research and we are still waiting for the moment to cast although the reactor is ready to go into operation and will certainly be positive. There are still some challenges that we have to do to really going to waste raw materials and other raw materials.

What success has been achieved within your task?

Within my task – I’ve given you the main result – is the development, and we applied for a patent and we have another patent going together with New Line Development (Mr. Dumont). We really established a new kind of reactor that can deal with these specific raw materials, for the moment on a lab scale. But we have done it already on a larger scale, we are going from kilograms per hour to tons per hour.

What should be the next step after the end of the project?

I’m certain that I repeat what everybody has said, we have to move from a smaller scale. We are now at 30 kilograms per hour on a continuous basis, real plants operate at hundreds of tons per hour. So, we have a scale-up procedure that must be developed from kilograms to hundreds of kilograms, and then to a ton per hour.

Some last comments to conclude?

No further comments. The project is going fine, the group is fantastic and I’m sure that everybody is happy with all this happening.