Novel high temperature heat pumps to slash carbon emissions in industrial drying

25 March 2021

Keri Adamson

A University of Waikato Masters of Engineering student is developing a simulated digital twin prototype of a novel high temperature heat pump that could produce heat at above 200°C and slash carbon emissions from dairy processing if successful.

The University of Waikato is working in collaboration with the University of Auckland and Massey University on Project Ahuora, a $12.5 million research platform funded by the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment, to help re-engineer the way we use, supply and store energy for heating in industrial processing.

Masters of Engineering student, Keri Adamson has received a scholarship from Project Ahuora to complete her Masters’ project under the supervision of Dr Tim Walmsley.

She said, until now, heat pumps have not been able to reach high enough temperatures to be used in many industrial processes in New Zealand.

“Traditionally fossil fuel boilers are used to create the heat required in the manufacturing process for products like milk powder. We know there can be a lot of waste heat associated with that process so we have been working on a new heat pump process that can upgrade waste heat and reach temperatures of at least 200°C, which is what is needed.”

Keri said latest statistics showed the dairy processing industry created around 2.1 million tonnes of carbon emissions yearly due to the use of fossil fuel boilers.

“Electrification of high temperature industrial processes with the implementation of heat pumps has been limited due to existing cycles not reaching high enough temperatures. The cycle we are analysing however could change that.”

Keri is the first member of her family to attend university and the only one to enter engineering. She said she was drawn to the career path because she is interested in energy and decarbonising New Zealand.

“I want to be part of reducing our emissions and reducing climate change. Currently, we are still in the analysis phase and using advanced simulation, but the next steps would be to create a prototype and then eventually be able to work with industry on trials.”

Project Ahuora, which encompasses Keri’s research, is led by School of Engineering Professor Michael Walmsley.

“The work our researchers are doing on the Ahuora platform will certainly help bring New Zealand closer to its net-zero-carbon targets. It also provides fabulous real-life, hands-on learning for our students that will make a real difference to our environment,” Professor Walmsley said.

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