Laughing gas? Not funny!
What’s not funny? The effects of a curiously named chemical component on the environment. Laughing gas, or N2O, nitrous oxide, or even dinitrogen monoxide to those in the know, is not only a ferocious greenhouse gas, it actually helps create holes in the ozone layer. So which technology could help to reduce the effects of nitrous oxide as well as other, equally perilous, mono-nitrogen oxide emissions?
Always good for a laugh: Dr. Meinhard Schwefer protects the air from dangerous greenhouse gases.
The answer is EnviNOx®. One of the main sources of laughing gas is the production of nitric acid, an important component in manufacturing various fertilizers and synthetics. Around the world, these production systems emit nearly 400,000 tons of N2O every year. To significantly reduce these emissions, researchers at ThyssenKrupp subsidiary Uhde GmbH developed a multiple award-winning process known as EnviNOx®. Using a ground-breaking catalytic converter, the process breaks down almost every trace of N2O and NOx into air’s common components: N2, O2, and H2O. The technique has already been in industrial use since 2003 in the Austrian town of Linz, and as of 2009, in 10 other plants in other areas of the world. ThyssenKrupp and the Institute of Chemical Process Engineering at the Clausthal University of Technology continue to work together to advance and refine EnviNOx®.
Nitric acid systems are used in many countries around the world – there is demand for EnviNOx® everywhere.
Forger of the future:
Dr. Meinhard Schwefer’s title is “Technology Manager Catalysts”. He works in Research & Development, where he also looks at the technology at the heart of the EnviNOx®process: catalytic converters. In fact, as winner of the 2005 ThyssenKrupp Innovation Award, no one knows better than this chemist how much it all boils down to “chemistry”. Not only when it’s about breaking down environmentally harmful nitrous gases. He’s also enthusiastic about the chemistry of his role – it may be a rollercoaster at times, but his job is a rich mixture of fascinating tasks. On the one hand, he carries out experiments, uncovering new facts in the laboratory and designing new lab equipment. On the other, he sees plenty of variety on a management level. And when he’s not busy researching things, developing new solutions, forwarding information, or telephoning with co-workers in every corner of the globe? He’s often on an airplane to places like Egypt or South Korea to supervise the installation of nitric acid plants. It’s what the chemicals expert finds so rewarding about his job, even after nearly 10 years at Uhde GmbH: “You get the chance to work from the grassroots right up to the top. You start in the lab and walk through every step, right to the pilot plant.” The specialist, who previously studied at Paderborn University in Germany and then worked at a research institute, is never worried about finding things to do: “It’s ‘self perpetuating’. It’s what the customers want!”
At ThyssenKrupp, you get to develop things that really help to make this world a better place to live in. Which also quickly translates into international success.
Do projects like this make you smile? Please explore some of our other flagship projects.