Patent of the Month January
Ice blasting – A cool alternative to sandblasting
In the frosty temperatures of January, when we are tediously scraping hard ice off the car windows, the cold is an annoying nuisance. However, the company jenpneumatik & Schlauchtechnik GmbH has taken advantage of the frost. With the help of tiny ice particles, it has developed an environmentally, health friendly alternative to cleaning with abrasive sandblasting and applied for a patent (DE102019109860A1) for the new technology of “ecologically abrasive surface processing with water-ice blasts” in Germany. The innovative company was awarded with the XXV. Thuringian Innovation Award in the category "Tradition & Future” in November 2022 – thus their patent application is our Patent of the Month January!
The Jena-based company is specialised in hose technology, compression and high-pressure cleaning techniques, e.g. for removing rust or brittle paint from surfaces. The conventional sandblasting technique used for this purpose, however, has the problem that it requires large quantities of quartz sand, which must afterwards be collected and removed of as contaminated material - a high cost in terms of resources and disposal. The contaminated blasting material sprays far into the environment. Workers must therefore wear protective clothing and breathing masks, and buildings must be elaborately housed to reduce the environmental impact.
The literally "cool" solution to this problem was devised by the Jena engineer and owner of “jenpneumatik”, Holger Pustal, together with Jürgen Rösler, managing Director of RS Korrosionsschutz GmbH from Bucha. The research work was coordinated by Dr Hannes Nowak, then of the Institute for Solid State Physics at Friedrich Schiller University in Jena. In the process they developed, small ice particles completely replace the quartz sand in the cleaning operation. In the final stage, only water remains, the abrasion is collected via a fleece. The innovative technology thus has the potential to achieve higher efficiency, speed up processes and reduce environmental and health pollution.
The challenge with this method is to get the ice particles in a sufficiently compacted condition for the abrasion to be successful. In the patented solution, the ice particles are produced in a counter current process with liquid nitrogen. An ascending gas stream freezes water droplets at temperatures of down to -196 degrees Celsius to form the ice particles. These are compressed with nitrogen in a pressure vessel and subsequently directed to a mixing unit with propellant gas into a blasting gun, which functions as an accelerator - the surface treatment can begin!
The potential range of usage for this technology is wide. Ice blasting does not require an electrical connection, neither for the generation nor for the application of the ice particles, and is therefore also suitable for particularly difficult operational areas, e.g. the cleaning of high-voltage pylons. The inventors hope that the new process will make work considerably easier for the user, reduce environmental pollution and also significantly reduce costs. A thoroughly clean performance!
The Patent and Standards Centre wishes a cool start to a happy new year 2023!
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Innovationspreis Thüringen 2022 - Preisträger jenpneumatik & Schlauchtechnik GmbH