Waste heat – a wasted opportunity?

An Australian research initiative focusing on waste heat recently held its inaugural workshop at QUT in Brisbane. The goal is to tap into potentially one of the largest available energy sources on the planet.

Untapped potential

Waste heat can be harnessed in many ways, some of which are already fairly common. Examples include some types of heat pumps in buildings, heat-recovery systems in supermarkets, and using heat from data centres to heat pools or even entire districts.

But despite these applications, the researchers involved in the project say waste heat is still an overlooked and largely underutilised energy resource. This is due to insufficient governmental policies and incentives, challenges of integrating waste heat recovery technologies and thermal management solutions into existing industrial settings, and the limited economic viability of those technologies at scale.

To overcome these challenges, the Industrial Transformation Training Centre for Sustainable Waste Heat Innovation & Transformation is developing a proposal for ARC (Australian Research Council) funding to investigate how to make use of the enormous amount of energy wasted in the built environment.

A common goal

The purpose of the workshop was to unite researchers and industry partners to help define the project’s overall vision, and its major work programs. It brought together about 50 people from academia, industry and governmental agencies.

According to Centre Director and Professor of Engineering at QUT Emilie Sauret, the conversations with end-users, software and technology providers, researchers and policy-makers confirmed the need for a research centre tackling waste heat. The workshop also emphasised the importance of cross-sector collaboration in addressing this shared challenge.

“The discussions highlighted a strong need for integration and optimised operation of waste heat recovery systems, especially while retrofitting new technologies in existing industrial settings,” says Suaret.

“Furthermore, the proposed Centre should focus on delivering pilot demonstrations of new technologies and work on upscaling those technologies for their applicability and operational implementation in industry.”

Next steps

In terms of progressing towards the submission of an ARC-ITCC proposal, Suaret says Australian case studies are needed to illustrate the capabilities of waste heat recovery.

“Studies of load requirements and heat demand are needed across the targeted industries – critical infrastructures such as hospitals and data centres, industrial facilities including food and beverage processing plants and sustainable fuels production, and commercial buildings – as well as mapping the heat source (quality and quantity) to the potential users and their needs.”

The team is now seeking such case studies, and is aiming to submit the proposal towards the end of 2024.

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Image courtesy of Catalyst.

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