Jul
24

Green Innovation: Unexpected Gems

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As the world becomes more “green conscious,” green innovation will increasingly be an area where the best of human creativity can surprise and delight us. One of my favorite case studies in Conquering Innovation Fatigue is that of Orion Energy Systems (NASDAQ: OESX), where CEO Neal Verfuerth’s personal journey of innovation has resulted in a large company that can dramatically cut the power bills of large and small companies with massively innovative lighting systems and a retrofitting approach that recycles everything. Green capitalism at its best!

Green innovation extends to many other areas. One intriguing example from the Netherlands is GreenGraffiti®, a sustainable advertising and communication method that involves simply power washing a sidewalk or other dirty surface using a template that results in a “clean green” message standing out from the normal untreated background. Better than paint, posters, neon, or billboards, this form of communication doesn’t require removal or cleanup and doesn’t harm the environment unless you want to nit-pick about the small amount of water and electricity used to create the message, and the template itself).

One of the clients of Innovationedge has a remarkable green innovation for the paper industry. The Fractionating Saveallâ„¢ by a Wisconsin inventor is a remarkable device that helps papermakers, especially tissue makers, recover good fibers from waste streams and improve the quality of the water (“whitewater”) that is recycled in the paper machine. His clever device relies on the water flow itself to drive the rotating flexible conical screen that does the work, using no electricity or other additional power.

Fractionating Saveall in Use at a Tissue Mill

Fractionating Saveall in Use at a Tissue Mill

The conical fabric screen rotates under the action of jets of water carrying fibers and “junk” (ash and “fines” – materials that are often undesirable at high concentations that can build up in a paper machine). It gathers desirable long fibers inside the screen, which roll down to a central collection area where they are sent back to the paper machine, while the water high in ash and fines but low in fiber goes outside the screen, where it can then be purified or partly sewered without losing good fiber.

The flexing of the fabric screen is what gives this process so many advantages over past approaches. A metal screen can quickly plug up. But the fabric screen has a self-cleaning action due to the continual flexing back and forth as it rotates and passes under water jets that momentarily push it outward. This flexing keeps fibers from locking into place onto the screen. High efficiency, low maintenance, easy installation – really brilliant. We have a unit in Appleton that can be seen upon request, and much more info is available upon request. Green, clean, and lean – perfect for a paper machine.

Naturally, a tool like this can find applications in other fields as well. Separation of solids from water is important in the food processing industry, in mining, in biomass conversion, in water purification, in waste treatment, and in many other areas. The mesh of the screen, flow rates, system diameter, and post-processing systems can all be adapted to meet the separation objectives needed. I some cases, the presence of added surfactants, defoamers, or other agents may be helpful in optimizing performance. Contact us with your application and let’s discuss how one or more of these units could be applied to meet your needs.

The story of this innovation is one that fits many of the lessons of Conquering Innovation Fatigue. We hope to share it in the near future, after this device becomes more fully known and appreciated by the industry.

For more information, see the Executive Summary for the Fractionating Saveall (PDF file).

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InnovationFatigue.com is the official blog for the new book, Conquering Innovation Fatigue. Here we provide supplementary innovation, news, tips, updates, and, when needed, a correction or two, to keep those who are using the big on the inside edge for innovation success.