I’m currently at the Brau Beviale drinks industry exhibition in Nuremberg, Germany. It’s a pretty big show that covers pretty much everything in the drinks industry supply chain – from custom bottle tops and beer pumps right down to floor tiles and grout that don’t become slippery when you spill beer on them.
As technology developers we’ve chosen a couple of suitable demonstrators that show off some of our skills as an innovation partner – our wine blending machine and our continuous emulsification and microencapsulation processes. We tailored our demos to be very relevant to the drinks industry but on reflection we could have been a lot more off-the-wall with the tech that we displayed. This show covers such a wide swathe of the supply chain that pretty much anything would have been relevant – ultrasonic zappers to squish the foam on a beer bottling line and RF moisture measurement devices to check that your PET pellets are dry enough to mould into drinks bottles sit in the same hall as incubators and agar to grow your yeast cultures and dispersible food safe gold glitter to make your cocktails look super glitzy.
Recycling has been a really big theme this year – but alongside all of the machines to crush your PET bottles and aluminium cans into neat high density foot-cube bales, people are really starting to worry about how they recycle their heat.
I hadn’t realised just how much of an issue this is – imagine the factory that injection moulds the pre-forms for drinks bottles. They pump a whole lot of energy into the plastic granules in order to melt them before squishing them into the mould tool – then they expend even more energy in cooling down the mould tool so that they can get the bottle back out again. All of that cooling power ends up generating a whole heap of heat somewhere else down the line – and suddenly people are very conscious about how they recycle it. ‘Adiabatic’ is a word that I mainly associate with struggling my way through undergraduate thermodynamics lectures but now it seems to be the word of the moment for industrial equipment suppliers. Energy efficiency and thermal management are suddenly key selling points to differentiate your massive industrial installation from your competitors. Being able to explain how your system has efficient adiabatic cooling and heat pumps that shift the heat from the hot side of your chillers back to the front end of your process where you need to heat things is now key system spec info – right next to your reliability, system up-time and yield characterisation info.
About time too! Lots of people might say. It seems utterly stupid to burn energy to heat things at one end of your line and then vent hot air or hot water out of the other end when you need to cool things down again – but moving heat around your factory is not an easy thing to do. I think that this will be a very profitable area to keep lots of clever chaps and chapesses busy for some time to come.