From environmental concerns and the spread of renewable energies to the exponential growth in mobile devices, Imerys is contributing to the development of new solutions that meet current and future energy issues.
The Group’s range of mineral-based specialties is constantly extended thanks to sustained R&D efforts. The applications described below were all developed in the past five years. In 2011 they accounted for almost 5% of the Group’s sales and have real potential for further growth.
- Oil and gas fields
Imerys spotted this market’s potential several years ago and made a significant research investment. 14 patents have been filed, particularly in relation to proppants, the agents that keep rock fractures open. Proppants are increasingly used to explore shale gas fields in North America, driven by rising energy needs and the spread of fracturing and horizontal drilling techniques.
In 2008, Imerys launched a small production unit for a highly innovative proppant, Propynite®. The product’s long shape helps to increase the output of wells without using pollutant additives. Ceramic proppants, based on bauxitic kaolin mined and processed by Imerys in south Georgia (USA), have been manufactured in a brand new unit since the start of 2012.
- Solar and photovoltaic energy
A major player in high-purity quartz mining and conversion, Imerys partnered with Norwegian Crystallite SAS* to create The Quartz Corp. The joint venture now supplies a broad range of innovative products for the solar power market. Its technologies are also used in processor and semiconductor manufacturing.
High-purity quartz is an essential mineral in the production of the crucibles used to cast molten silicon which, once processed and cut into very thin discs, becomes a photovoltaic cell. This alternative energy source has confirmed its potential for several years.
Moreover, in France Imerys has developed thermal and photovoltaic roof tiles that fit perfectly into clay frames designed by the Group. This gives Imerys a comprehensive, integrated offering of health, attractive and energy-efficient roofing.
* held by the Norwegian group Norsk Mineral AS
- Li-ion batteries
In rechargeable lithium-ion batteries carbon-based specialties are used as conductive additives for anodes and cathodes. This makes the reversible storage of ions possible in the anode, an essential condition for power generation. Moreover, graphite and carbon black make lithium-ion batteries safer and more efficient.
- Heating elements
Electrofused magnesia oxide is commonly used in industrial appliances (boilers, train heating, etc.) for its electrical and thermal properties. Imerys has also broadened its Graphite & Carbons range with the introduction of C-Therm*. These products increase the thermal conductivity of plastic compounds used in high energy-efficiency applications (radiators, heat exchangers, thermal sensors).
* TIMREX® C-Therm 011 and TIMREX® C-Therm 012.
Innovative Minerals for more energy-efficient processes
LinerMAX™, a new engineered kaolin, is designed for linerboard production. When added as 3-5% filler, it maintains the mechanical properties of the board’s outer layers and reduces the amount of energy needed to make it. Through the partial replacement of organic components with a mineral product, drying linerboard that contains LinerMAX™ requires less steam than conventional formulations.
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