In 2019, Dr Kit Windows-Yule, Lecturer in Chemical Engineering at the University of Birmingham, was awarded an Industrial Fellowship. These Royal Academy of Engineering fellowships strengthen links between universities and industry as well as encouraging new collaborative partnerships.
Dr Windows-Yule is working with a Swindon-based SME, Recycling Technologies Ltd. The company is developing a modular system that is designed to stop large amounts of plastic being transported from waste sites. Instead, its units go to the source of the waste where mixed plastics are converted into virgin-quality feedstock for new plastic production and clean, low sulphur fuels.
Dr Windows-Yule is helping Recycling Technologies analyse the internal dynamics of its fluidised-bed pyrolysis innovation, the RT7000. He is using a positron emission particle tracking (PEPT) technique, developed by the University of Birmingham, to produce detailed imaging and study the 3D dynamics of what is going in the RT7000.
By tracking individual particles and modelling the internal dynamics of the process, Dr Windows-Yule has been able to measure the influence of gas flow rates, distributor design and the size and shape of plastic inputs. This has enabled him to develop scaling laws for systems of different sizes and better understand the dynamics and physics of the reactor and help improve the process.
The RT7000 is self-sustainable, the light hydrocarbon gases that are a by-product of its plastic processing, can be used to power the whole system. Dr Windows-Yule was awarded a second Industrial Fellowship in 2021 which will enable him to continue working with Recycling Technologies. He hopes that this will produce enough efficiency gains to help the company turn a promising technology into a commercially viable, widely-adoptable plastic recycling system that could prove transformative in the fight against plastic waste.