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Numerical modelling of Aluminium electrolysis process

The production of aluminium is a very high energy consumption process. Several research studies have been conducted to understand the complex process involving chemical reactions, heat transfer, influence of electric field, magnetic field and the effect of thermal and mechanical stresses on components employed in the production. These studies have shown that there is still a lot of room for optimizing the process and improving the energy efficiency. Another factor which plays a major role in production is the price of the electricity. Since the price of electricity is continuously varying, it would be favorable to tap more energy from the grid when the prices are comparatively low and the other way around when prices are comparatively high. This modulation in the electrical energy requires that the heat balance in the electrolysis cell should also be maintained for undisturbed production of aluminium. An increase in electrical energy leads to increase in the heat generated in the cell. When the extra heat generated reaches a point where the molten electrolyte comes in direct contact with the Silicon carbide wall, it melts through the wall damaging the cell and halting the production process. Hence, the extra heat generated should be removed from the cell to ensure uninterrupted production of aluminium.  When operating at lower electrical energy, the thickness of solid ledge formed around the wall starts to increase leading to inefficient aluminium production.

virtualBatteryFOAM, a multiphysics solver in OpenFOAM®

Therefore the aim of the project is to achieve flexibility and energy efficiency of the aluminium production. To realize these goals it is necessary to have a deeper understanding of the different phenomena occurring in the production cell and the complicated inter dependencies between them.  OpenFOAM®, an opensource CFD software is employed in the project to model various physics like CHT,  multiphase flows, solidification process and electrodynamics among others and a multiphysics solver called virtualBatteryFOAM is being developed.  The project is carried out in cooperation with TRIMET Aluminium SE, a German aluminium production industry.

Simulation results of temperature distribution in Aluminium cell

Research project "SynErgy II"

This research project is sponsored by the German ministry of education and research under the program "SynErgie - Synchronized and Energy adaptive Production Engineering for flexible Adjustment of Industrial Processes referring to fluctuating Energy Supply", which is a part of the "Industrial processes" Kopernikus projects for energy revolution.

Research project "Aluminium Elektrolyse 4.0"

This research project is funded by the program "Europäischer Fonds für regionale Entwicklung (EFRE) 2014-2020 - Investitionen in Wachstum und Beschäftigung".

Research project "FlexTherm"

This research project is funded by the program "Europäischer Fonds für regionale Entwicklung (EFRE) 2014-2020 - Investitionen in Wachstum und Beschäftigung".