Infrared Drying Could Save Energy for Pulp and Paper Industry

Students from Saint Martin’s University in Lacey presented their research on how to slash energy usage within the energy-intensive paper- and pulp-drying industry this month at the 14th International Heat Transfer Conference in Washington, D.C.

The research project, titled “Infrared electric emitters for drying paper,” was funded by Puget Sound Energy (PSE) as part of a multiyear utility grant to the Independent Colleges of Washington (ICW).

“Great ideas need a place to grow,” said Cal Shirley, PSE’s vice president of Energy Efficiency Services. “These enterprising students at Saint Martin’s University deserve hearty congratulations. It’s exciting to see them flourish when given the opportunity. The next big energy-saving technology could ultimately begin as an idea born in the classroom.”

The students came up with a new paper-dryer concept, based exclusively on flat ceramic infrared electric emitters. By design, less heat is lost during the drying process with infrared technology over conventional steam dryers, thus making paper production more energy-efficient.

Because the drying process is a major source of energy consumption for paper mills, increasing efficiency would help mills save energy and money. Implementation of the technology, the students explain, could be done either by building new infrared dryers from the ground up or by retrofitting existing steam dryers.

In 2008, PSE awarded the ICW a $30,000 energy grant, to be distributed at $10,000 per year for three consecutive years, to support research projects related to improvements in power and energy use. Research projects were chosen through a selection process facilitated by the ICW. In April 2009, two $10,000 grants for research-related expenses were awarded to Saint Martin’s University and Seattle University. The students have two academic years to conduct research, with the project culminating in a final presentation to representatives from PSE and ICW.

In May 2010, the final $10,000 of the multiyear energy grant was awarded to Seattle University, for the 2010-2011 academic years, to conduct research on “Using Smart Grid Technology to Promote Energy Efficiency and Conservation in Student Housing.”

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