October 18, 2021

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Quebec businesses attempt plasma technology to deliver greener fumed silica

5 min read

HPQ president, CEO and chairman Bernard Tourillon holds a piece of quartz although at PyroGenesis Canada in Montreal on Sept. 9, 2021. The two organizations are eyeing plasma know-how to transform silica into fumed silica as a means to make the content greener.

Christinne Muschi/The Globe and Mail

Fumed silica: It’s in your deodorant, light bulbs and wall paint, but you have most likely hardly ever read of it. Derived from quartz, it’s a light-weight, white, fluffy powder applied as a thickening agent in many of the merchandise Canadians take in every day.

But normal strategies of generating fumed silica – also known as pyrogenic silica – are acknowledged to pollute the ecosystem and generate unsafe, perhaps explosive by-goods. Also, most fumed silica is produced by American, German or Chinese companies, so transportation can include to emissions.

Now, two Montreal-primarily based providers are establishing a new process for processing fumed silica they say could lower emissions by 86 per cent. They say this would make them the only businesses to produce fumed silica in Canada, and the initial to use plasma technological know-how to manufacture it.

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Quartz mining business HPQ Silicon Methods Inc. and plasma processes expert PyroGenesis Canada Inc. say employing plasma technological know-how to change the silica into fumed silica, in its place of working with strong flames and chemical substances, could be the future step in creating the content greener.

“This new course of action could revolutionize the producing of fumed silica, although repatriating generation again to North America,” the corporation reported in a news launch in August. It also mentioned the worldwide fumed silica sector is envisioned to improve from US$1.5-billion in 2016 to US$2.2-billion in 2022.

World Current market Insights, a U.S. sector analysis and consulting business, estimates the fumed silica market could develop at a compound level of 5.4 for every cent each year above the up coming 5 a long time.

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PyroGenesis announced Wednesday it had secured an additional $630,000 from Technoclimat, a Quebec authorities environmentally friendly electrical power fund, to produce low-expense, environmentally pleasant fumed silica procedures. This follows a grant of $700,000 from Sustainable Growth Know-how Canada, an arms-length federal basis, declared in May perhaps. In accordance to PyroGenesis, this provides the complete worth of the job to about $5.3-million, which include the sale of intellectual assets to HPQ Silicon for $3.3-million.

The two businesses are concentrating on the fast-escalating desire amid buyers concentrated on ESG (surroundings, social and governance) troubles.

At the conclusion of the 2nd quarter of 2021, sustainable expense property hit $26-billion in Canada, symbolizing a yr-in excess of-12 months progress rate of 130 for each cent, in accordance to Calgary-based sector study organization Matco Monetary Inc. This progress arrives regardless of rising concerns about greenwashing – when a business implies its solution or services is extra environmentally friendly than it really is.

“We’re transferring into an surroundings where by ESG rules are there for everyone, so the potential buyers of a material now have to be aware of its carbon footprint,” explained Bernard Tourillon, president of HPQ Silicon.

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Mr. Tourillon of HPQ Silicon eyes a piece of quartz in Montreal on Sept. 9, 2021.

Christinne Muschi/The Globe and Mail

The project is at this time in its trial period of time, and is predicted to develop 50 tonnes of fumed silica in its 1st 12 months, staring in July, 2022. HPQ Silicon holds intellectual house rights for the reactor procedure through its subsidiary, HPQ Polvere, and the approach is patent safeguarded.

“Scaling up these kinds of procedures is our specialty at PyroGenesis, but we know there’s going to be a great deal of good tuning to just before we’re generating kilos and kilos of this stuff that is of the right good quality for our suppliers’ desires,” said Jean-René Gagnon, guide procedure engineer at PyroGenesis Canada.

The company’s new technique builds on the perform of McGill University emeritus professor Richard Munz, now a expert on the undertaking.

“The present-day system applied by businesses in China and Europe makes use of a lot of chlorine, so it’s expensive, and it is not really environmentally welcoming,” mentioned Dr. Munz, who started out learning the approach in the 1990s. “Our plan was to make the very same product, employing only electrical energy and plasma technological innovation to preferably make it extra cheaply at the identical or much better excellent.”

Plasma is the fourth state of subject, just after sound, liquid and gasoline. In the exact same way a reliable turns to a liquid when strength is applied – these as ice melting into drinking water – a shift to plasma takes place when a gasoline is presented additional electrical power by means of the transmission of electrical energy.

Plasma is used in the auto, health care device and transportation industries. PyroGenesis specializes in working with plasma technologies to produce solutions for the defence, mining, metallurgy and squander-management sectors.

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PyroGenesis’s new plasma technique proposes to expose quartz to an electric powered arc in a way comparable to lightning, Mr. Gagnon stated.

“We set the quartz in the reactor and subject matter it to high temperature, and it vaporizes into incredibly little particles. Then we’re capable to resolidify it as this extremely, incredibly fantastic powder,” he claimed.

The two businesses hope it will bring fumed silica manufacturing to Canada. Existing big players in the industry incorporate Boston-centered Cabot Corp., Germany’s Evonik Industries AG and China’s Henan Xunyu Chemical Co., Ltd., all large-scale chemical businesses.

“It’s not a substantial current market in the way that other organic assets are, like wood or electrical power. But at a industry price of US$1.5-billion, it is definitely really worth it commercially for us to enter. Even if we get 5 or 10 for each cent of that organization in the initially several decades, it is continue to an enormous quantity of money,” Mr. Gagnon said.

The new output strategy would not change present types – at least, not any time shortly – presented the dimensions of investments in present infrastructure. But Dr. Munz reported the initiative could be an prospect to make investments in a Canadian exportable good.

Mr. Gagnon reported the job also can make unique perception in Quebec, in which renewable vitality from hydro vegetation is affordable and quartz is considerable. Most of Canada’s quartz reserves are in the province, as very well as in Ontario and Alberta.

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If productive, the organizations strategy to scale up manufacturing to 1000’s of tonnes a calendar year.

“It would place Quebec on the map for an environmentally friendly way of creating a pretty crucial industrial substance,” Dr. Munz said. “There’s a extensive way to go, but we’ve been thriving and we’re going to continue to keep heading.”

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