Primitive thermal processing, in the form of simple combustion, provided heat to satisfy survival needs and to support the incipient culinary arts. The Stone Age was ushered out by the realization that reducing native ores in a charcoal fire could form strong, malleable metals and alloys. Metallurgical craft, developed during the subsequent Bronze and Iron Ages, gradually evolved into science during the Middle Ages. New thermal technologies flourished during the Industrial Revolution. In the present “high-tech” era, thermal processes not only dominate metal production but also find extensive application in the manufacture of certain polymers and ceramics, conversion of fossil fuel to electrical energy, and treatment of industrial waste.
Thermal processing technologies have retained their industrial prominence for several reasons. Many chemical reactions that are not thermodynamically feasible under ambient conditions occur spontaneously at elevated temperatures. Thermal processing also provides definite kinetic advantages, often rendering reaction and transport rates so rapid that they are merely of academic importance. Other advantages include efficient separation and improved yield, inherently superior energy efficiency, and the relatively high throughput per unit volume of most thermal reactors. Critics decry thermal processing for air pollution emissions, but this argument is refuted by the ready availability of commercially proven gas collection and cleaning technologies. The corporate experience of Hazen Research covers the gamut of thermal processing applications. Our staff includes experienced chemical engineers, metallurgical engineers, mechanical engineers, and process technicians whose expertise allows us to fully evaluate all essential process considerations including critical materials handling issues such as the feed, product recovery, and offgas handling systems. We maintain an extensive collection of process equipment for programs ranging in scope from preliminary laboratory concept evaluation to pilot-scale demonstration plants leading to commercial plant design. Because we are not committed to any particular technology or affiliated with equipment vendors, Hazen is able to guarantee an unbiased evaluation of every application.