All our collaborative projects connect industry with academia to demonstrate disruptive technologies that will make glass and other foundation industry materials zero-carbon and sustainable.
Our current R&D activities are focussing on the following key strategic areas:
• Raw materials, including cullet, materials processing and new batch compositions/treatments
• Routes to increase the percentage of recycled materials back into the glass furnace
• New furnace technologies, including low carbon fuels, waste-heat recovery and CCUS
• New digital technologies, control and automation
• New inspection and monitoring technologies
• New coatings and forming technologies, to improve glass strength and reduce glass weight
We are also working closely with other Energy Intensive Industries, such as Steel, Ceramics, Cement, Chemicals and Paper on common technology developments to pool resources and expertise in order to speed up key developments and attract more significant investment from both public and private sectors
Development of alternative fuel technologies
Robotic operations and automation
Heat recovery, abatement and CCUS demonstrations
Secondary raw materials for a circular economy
Raw material and cullet processing technology
New compositions and treatments
Industry 4.0 applications
Next generation refractories
Inspection equipment and sensors
Industrial Fuel Switching:
Funded by the government's Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) we're been involved in two phases of research so far. We've undertaken trials to evaluate the technical, economic, and environmental aspects of alternative fuels for glass furnaces such as hydrogen, biofuels, hybrid fuels and electric power. It included an industrial biofuel trial on a full-scale commercial line as well as a lab-scale hydrogen demonstration. The goal is to assess the potential of these low-carbon fuel technologies to decarbonise the glass industry in line with the UK government's net zero target of 2050.
HYDESS: E.ON and the consortium is launching a new study to assess the feasibility of green hydrogen as a planet-friendly fuel for steelmakers. The initial feasibility study, funded by the BEIS and its Net Zero Innovation Portfolio (NZIP), will be based at E.ON's Blackburn Meadows renewable energy park. It will explore the potential of generating hydrogen from biomass which can be used as an alternative to fossil fuels in South Yorkshire's energy intensive steel industry as a way of switching away from natural gas in heating and forging processes. Project partners include Forgemasters and Forged Solutions, working alongside Chesterfield Special Cylinders and supported by the AMRC/University of Sheffield and Glass Futures. We will use our combustion test bed to investigate these important questions, the small scale trials will be performed using 50% and 100% hydrogen blends to assess product quality gaps.
This project has seen the creation of the Foundation Industries Sustainability Consortium (FISC) bringing together global leaders in innovation, research, and technology from across the cement, metal, glass, ceramic, paper, polymer, and chemical industries.
Our member Encirc, with bid writing support from us, won funding to digitally link its furnaces to 14 production lines to optimise its furnaces to run at minimum viable energy, connecting the control systems for processes across the whole production line and using data analysis techniques to optimise production. This will deliver huge carbon reductions each year whilst improving productivity and product quality. The project is being delivered in partnership with the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) Hartree Centre and Siemens.
C-Capture CCUS Innovation:
This technology project surveyed, identified, and developed an understanding of carbon capture technologies and those currently under development to build an understanding of which are most suited to glass manufacturing technically and economically.
The UK glass sector produces £307m of toughened glass each year. NiS defects, which are difficult to detect, are estimated to affect around 1% of toughened panels and cause catastrophic failure. Existing practice is to heat-soak panels for long periods to stimulate this failure before the panels go to the end user. This results in high rates of false positives (60%) resulting in around 11,000m2 of float glass a year. The ceramic and metal sectors have similar inspection issues which use large amounts of energy, emitting CO2 and wasted energy. This project will look at the design, hardware, and software of inspection systems for glass, ceramics, and the metal sector to make processes more efficient and less energy intensive.
A previous project on catalytic conversion of methane to hydrogen explored the potential use of hydrogen by-products, generated from the manufacture of functional carbon nanotube production, in the float glass manufacturing process. The Torstran Electric and WHR Furnace Programme will see installation of electric CNT furnaces and the WHY system/flue connections leading to furnace stabilisation and production trials allowing for continuous Torstran production. Once the concept is demonstrated it will operate 24/7 on a commercial scale furnace. Product optimisation will also allow the glass industry to benefit from electrically conductive coating for glazing and pollutant abatement coatings for reaction glass and steel.
BCC Hydrogen for ceramics - Phase 1:
This project saw us work with the British Ceramics Confederation Hydrogen Project Working Group representing key areas of the ceramics sector ( (bricks, roof tiles, floor/wall tiles, sanitaryware, refractories, drainage pipes and tableware). It involved demonstrating 100% hydrogen-firing technologies on the two main types of kiln (batch and continuous tunnel) which will provide a key route to decarbonise the UK ceramics sector by 2040.
This project will create the industrial scale production of high-quality technical ceramic parts that enables their widespread adoption within the foundation industries. This project is led by Photocentric with MTC as technical partner, Kanthal as the industrial user, supported by Glass Futures and The Cast Metal Federation.
This 'Transforming Foundation Industries Fast Start Project' brings together partners from across the foundation industries, the energy sector, academics, and supply chain to identify opportunities to take waste ashes, slags, mineral by-products, and filter dusts and convert them into new raw materials that can not only substitute existing raw materials but also provide cost-effective routes to improve product performance within glass, ceramic and cement applications.
This ‘Transforming Foundation Industries Fast Start Project' brings together the glass industry and steel industry to look for symbiotic relationships that may enable waste material from the glass industry to be used to increase the value of the steelworks slag. The project also hopes to assess whether the desulphurisation slag, a product that is currently difficult to reuse, can be re-used within the industry by modifying the BOS slag and upgrading its value through use of difficult to dispose of waste materials from the glass and steel industries.
This ‘Transforming Foundation Industries Fast Start Project' project hopes to demonstrate feasibility trials of an innovative CO2 transcritical power cycle for industrial waste heat conversion systems and investigate its potential future application in heat-intensive industries such as steel and glass plants. A combined CO2 transcritical compressor and vapour-liquid ejector will be developed and installed to create thermal-to-electrical efficiency of approximately 30% (twice that of conventional techniques).
Led by Global Combustion Systems (GCS) this project is part of the UKRI funding competition 'ISCF Transforming foundation industries: Building a resilient recovery.' Bringing together glass and steel, two high energy-consuming sectors, it will develop a new combustion technology for high-temperature furnaces that can reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions and improve furnace thermal efficiency. GCS, supported by Glass Futures, Tata Steel, Liberty Speciality Steels, and the University of South Wales will assess the performance of the GCS ‘Auxiliary Injection' technology for use in glass and steel furnace scenarios for natural gas as well as a range of renewable and low carbon fuels such as biofuels and hydrogen (for which NOx may be a greater issue).
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