Biotechnology

UWO professors get patents for flawless industry

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Pawel Olszewski, an associate professor of mechanical engineering technology at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, was recently granted a US patent for a flameless impingement oven, designed and built in the Energy and Teaching Research Industry Lab (TERIL) on the Oshkosh campus.

Pawel Olszewski, an associate professor of mechanical engineering technology at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, was recently granted a US patent for a flameless impingement oven, designed and built in the Energy and Teaching Research Industry Lab (TERIL) on the Oshkosh campus.

Olszewski began patent proceedings in 2019 with WiSys, a Wisconsin-based non-profit dedicated to helping inventors protect their intellectual property, and received news of the approval in February.

Titled the “flameless impingement oven”, the invention is US patent number 11,585,601 B2, granted on February 21.

Industrial ovens — as this creation perfects them — are used for a variety of purposes, including heat treatment and melting of materials such as steel or aluminum. The benefits of a flawless-impingement setup, says Olszewski, include faster warm-ups for increased productivity; fewer pollutants emitted because thorough heating reduces nitrogen oxides; and reduced fuel consumption with gas running out at lower temperatures.

The new oven regulates jets of natural gas and air to directly affect the object being heated, transferring heat substantially by transfer impingement rather than by conventional radiation and thermally induced convection.

Because the air and gas rotate at high speed inside the oven—“like a huge tornado,” explains Olszewski—chemical reactions to generate extreme heat are happening all over the place all the time.

The chamber, which is a foot high, a foot wide and food deep, reaches temperatures of more than 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit.

“Everything mixes and the gas always meets the oxidizing agent,” he said. “So when you look into the furnace during normal no-fire operation, there is no flame. You have combustion but no flame. Natural gas oxidizes, reacts with oxygen, producing heat, but no flame.”

The prototype was built at TERIL on the third floor of the Halsey Science Center. The oven is the fourth unique industrial system built there and requires three others to run: cooling, pumping and compressed air.

The idea can be traced back to when Olszewski was a post-doctorate fellow at the University of Michigan. While there, he worked with a simpler flameless oven. Ideas kept swirling in his head and when he came to UW Oshkosh in 2014, he and his students set about creating all the industrial systems that would make the oven possible.

“Not a single piece of equipment was purchased in the state. Everything is purchased as a component,” he said. “We cut any frame, we set up our own control cabinet, everything here includes the software that controls all the systems.”

What Olszewski hopes next is for a local company to express interest so his idea can grow beyond a single prototype. He said any company that smelted aluminum, cast iron, steel or even glass could benefit from the technology. It can be translated to more or less any size and a used oven can be reassembled.

“I hope it will catch on somewhere,” he said.

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UW Oshkosh hosts 9,703 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students across three campuses. With more than 250 majors, minors, and certificate programs, UW Oshkosh offers one of the largest program lineups in Wisconsin. Student success is at the heart of UW Oshkosh. Students benefit from personalized support with small class sizes, many academic and personal support services, and personalized career and academic guidance. Oshkosh is ranked as the No. 1 best college city. 1 and the most livable small town No. 4 in the United States, and students benefit from the entertainment, work, and recreation of a thriving community. With a strong research focus and national rankings in sustainability, Titans demonstrates every day what students can do to change the world. Learn more at uwosh.edu.


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