Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Kilns and furnaces

We’re back looking at applications for this block system. So far we’ve looked at architectural applications, water storage tanks, desalination spheres and (possibly?) oil spill containment methods. Today we’ll look at kilns and furnaces.


Kilns and furnaces made with this system offer the benefit of a radial design. Whether a sphere or a cylinder, a radial design uses less surface area per unit volume than any rectangular or square arrangement. A sphere provides the minimum surface area to volume ratio possible.

This is important because surface area is how heat is lost to the outside: by conduction, convection and radiation cooling. If we minimize surface area, we minimize heat loss.

Furthermore, if combustion is used to heat the kiln/furnace (as opposed to electrical heating) then a round structure greatly increases the efficiency of combustion. This is done by extending the flame path in the firing space. When the flame path is extended, the chemical reaction of combustion (combining fuel with oxygen) is more thoroughly accomplished. Combustion in a round kiln (or furnace) produces a swirling vortex, a “whirl wind” of burning flame. This vortex is how the flame path gets extended in the firing space. It also creates a much more even temperature within the firing space. A square or rectangular kiln will create “hot spots” where the flame impinges on walls and corners; it also creates cool spots where the flame is less evenly applied.  In the kilns I built, I used a 'downdraft' design, where combusted fuel is vented out the bottom of the kiln.

By using simple unit shapes, as described earlier in this blog, the cost of constructing a kiln is minimized. Blocks do not need to be custom cut and precision matched to their specific location: blocks are interchangeable.

I received two awards from the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA) to build and test large scale kilns using this design. I built a standard rectangular kiln of the same volume, same wall thickness, same burners, etc. for the purpose of comparison. The round kiln was 37% more efficient than the rectangular kiln, and demonstrated a much more even temperature distribution. In the rectangular kiln, temperature varied by as much as 120 degrees F; within the round kiln temperature varied by only 5 degrees (at 2,300 degrees). Even temperature distribution is important to industry, where items should all be fired at the same temperature.

This technology can be used to fire ceramics, to make glass, for heat treating wood (kiln drying), and any other processes that require heat treatment. The same principals make this system appropriate for a number of consumer goods: including ovens, barbeques, smokers, etc.

Next time we’ll take a look at glass block, and how this masonry system can be used with glass block.

3 comments:

  1. Are there plans for this kiln, and can the blocks be purchased. Also what would you say the skill level is to do this on your own?

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  2. Currently there are no plans available for thios kiln, since it is patented. I expect to have this available within a year or so. Once the blocks are made it is very easy to assemble.

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  3. That's great,will look forward to that.

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