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Researchers, industry partner to trial solar thermal energy to enhance comminution

The hybrid solar receiver combustor with radiant burner technology provides uninterrupted supply of high temperature renewable heat. (Image courtesy of CEEC).

The Coalition for Energy Efficient Comminution (CEEC), a global non-profit funded by mining companies, have partnered with the University of Adelaide’s Institute for Mineral and Energy Resources (IMER) to trial the use of solar thermal energy to enhance comminution. 

Comminution is the process by which solid materials are reduced to smaller average particle size by crushing, grinding, cutting, vibrating, or other processes. 

In a press release, the Institute’s manager Chris Matthews said that solar thermal heat can weaken rocks, reducing the need for fossil fuel-derived mechanical energy traditionally used to crush and grind rocks, making it a more environmentally sustainable alternative. 

“IMER has developed a process where heat is provided by concentrated solar thermal, which data has shown could reduce comminution energy by up to 50%,” Mathews said. “The potential to improve energy efficiency in this project is just one example of the alignment between IMER’s research on low cost, low emissions energy and CEEC’s vision.”

In the view of the institutions involved, innovation in the processing and comminution of the raw materials required for renewable electricity generation and transmission has the potential to revolutionize the mineral and energy resources sector.