Environmental engineering concerns processes that serve to protect the biosphere and the regeneration of damaged ecosystems.
“Environmental protection” is an issue present directly and indirectly in all technical sectors in which equipment, plants and machinery are used, like, for example, in laboratories of research institutes or in companies in the ceramics, glass, plastics and metals industries.
A widely known example of the use of environmental engineering is the λ sensor that enables the control of optimum combustion of a fuel/air mix not only in the combustion engine of a motor vehicle, but also generally in firing systems.
The competitive situations in industry often demand the reduction of production costs without any detriment to the quality of the products. Even if “environmental protection” is not always an express goal of entrepreneurial measures, improvement in the effectiveness and the energy efficiency of plants and machines generally leads to the reduction of the environmental impact by solid, liquid and gaseous waste materials produced in running production processes. For this reason, many industrial enterprises today see measures for protection of the environment as a strategic competitive advantage. Generally, in such companies, an environmental management system in compliance with ISO 14001 and / or the EMAS regulations is established as a permanent element of corporate policy.
The producing industrial companies pursue often typical environmentally relevant goals, such as:
- Increase of the efficiency of plants and machinery
- Increase of the production yield to the ideal of zero-error production
- Reduction in the number of process steps
- Optimization of energy-intensive process steps
- Reduction of the consumption of electrical energy, water and process gases
- Waste avoidance
- Optimum waste management based on recycling or environmentally compatible disposal
Technologies for the protection of natural resources and the environment have been developed and applied in some cases for decades in the following areas:
- Low-emission processes
- Renewable energy generation
- Storage systems for thermal, chemical and mechanical energy
- Mobility on water, land and in the air
- Building services engineering
- Reduction of air, water and soil pollution
- Protection against ionizing and non-ionizing radiation
- Air purification based on reduction of the dust and gas load, e.g. from mechanical and thermal process engineering
- Environmentally compatible waste management by means of recycling, cleaning processes, thermal processes and appropriate disposal
- Environment-specific measurement and analysis methods
- Control technology for waste recycling plants
Components made of high-grade ceramic materials often contribute considerably to the realization of environmentally friendly technologies. Sometimes they constitute a principal precondition when, for instance, the following properties are required:
- High mechanical stability at temperatures above 1000 °C
- Thermal stability in oxidizing and reducing conditions as well as in a vacuum with temperatures sometimes well above 1500 °C
- Resistance to thermal shock
- Resistance to corrosive attack by melts, solutions and gases, under reducing and oxidizing conditions, against supercritical fluids as well as in contact with solid bodies
- High wear resistance
- Depending on the specific application, a high or low thermal and electrical insulating capacity
- Realization of mechanically and thermally stable ceramic-ceramic and ceramic-metal composites by means of non-positive, positive and adhesive joining processes.
The spectrum of the materials used extends from high-quality ceramic refractories through filter ceramics to dense-sintered monolithic oxide and non-oxide ceramics, piezoceramics, magnetic ceramics and fibre-reinforced ceramics.
The components made from these materials are used primarily in positions exposed to high stresses in plants and machinery. Especially for extreme requirement profiles, such materials are, thanks to their unique combination of physical, chemical and biological properties, sometimes far superior to other non-ceramic materials with regard to their serviceability. They regularly reach reliably long service lifetimes in often very rough operating conditions.