Pollution Prevention

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Objective for MPD D.6.1

  • Document the concomitant energy savings when using low-energy electron beams to eliminate volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) from inks, coatings and adhesives.

Background: There have been numerous research programs, many publications and but a very few demonstration projects showing the efficacy of using electron beams to eliminate air pollutants, such as sulfur and nitrous oxides, from fossil fuel power plants and to eliminate biohazards and toxic chemicals from wastewater. However, by far, the greatest contribution of electron beam processing to pollution prevention (P2) has been the adoption of low-energy electron beams in the printing, converting and coating industries. By eliminating VOC’s through the use of EB curable inks, coatings and adhesive, companies readily comply with the US Clean Air Act amendments of 1990. The technology of using reactive diluents has enabled producers to use conventional printing and coating processes, but to complement them with energy-efficient, space saving self-shielded low-energy electron beams.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and regional air quality districts, such as the Air Quality Management District in the Los Angeles county area, have acknowledge low energy EB processing as a pollution prevention, point-of-source technique. This contrasts with the EB uses noted above for stack gas and waster water treatment and of alternative technologies, such as solvent recovery and recycling, which are considered “tail pipe” technologies, systems used after the pollutant has been generated. EB processing also eliminates some of these sources for greenhouse gases.

Low-energy electron beams are also very efficient in converting incoming line power electricity into useful ionizing radiation, between 65% to 80% of incoming power results in useful EB output. The Industry Working Group at the US Department of Energy conference on “Accelerators for America’s Future” held in Washington, DC, in October 2009, estimated that if just one industry, coil coating, were to adopt EB processing, there would be sufficient energy savings to reduce power demand equivalent to that of a mid-sized power generating facility. Coil coating was selected as a market area of interest in that this was one market segment for which the EPA had published volume usage of coatings. While the US coil coating industry has not yet adopted EB processing, it is being used in a full scale production facility in Europe. Relative to the total market potential in printing and coatings, coil coating is a minor fraction.

Comparative studies are needed to document the energy savings of using EB processing versus historic uses of thermal drying and processing in diverse industrial applications. With EB processing, one can easily measure input power consumption in terms of kilowatt-hours. However, little is known about the total power consumption, including energy transfer efficiency, for historic systems of thermal curing and drying. Such data can be generated by astute engineering studies.

Action Items:

1. Working with an industrial association, such as RadTech International North America, and its members, some of whom use low-energy EB processing, establish a program to conduct energy consumption studies on processes, thermal and EB, which are being used to make the same or comparable products. Co-funding for such a study could be obtained through the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) which is favorably disposed to support low-energy EB processing. Such a study could be conducted through the newly established UV/EB Technology Center at the State University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry, a center co-funded by NYSERDA.

Resource Requirements:

1 – At least one full person-year of a process engineer is needed to define the parameters of such a study, to locate the appropriate industrial facilities to conduct such studies, to monitor energy consumption and to publish the results.