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The research groups Center for Structural Integrity, Micromechanics and Reliability of Materials (CIEFMA), Eco-Friendly Plastics and Composites (e-PLASCOM) and Innovation in Materials and Molecular Engineering (IMEM) of the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC) – specialists in the structure and properties of steels and metal alloys in general, the properties and transformation of plastics, and protection against corrosion, respectively – collaborate with the company URD (Urban Refuse Development) in the project Automatic Waste Collection (AWC).

Thirty years of useful life for collection pipes

The aim is to propose and test using selection criteria and experimental testing the materials that meet the necessary requirements for use in pneumatic waste collection systems. This will ensure an improvement in the useful life of collection system pipes, their preparation to collect glass and a reduction in wear from abrasion and corrosion. This laboratory work should help to guarantee a useful life of 30 years for the systems and increase the resistance to abrasion and corrosion by 30%. Abrasion-resistant materials are of great interest to many industrial sectors because they have an exceptional capacity to withstand high loads with insignificant loss or damage to materials, during processes of sliding, rolling or impact.

Real case of faults and situations of wear and tear

The most relevant results of an internal study by the company Urban Refuse Development (URD), the coordinator of the project, show that abrasive wear is the phenomenon that led to most of the recorded faults (>90%) in pneumatic waste collection plants. This phenomenon is due to a range of factors that should be addressed separately, for example, the angle in the changes of direction or deformation of the pipes, whether caused by overexposed welded seams, defects in assembly of the piping or the wrong type of waste being deposited by the user. However, two factors are involved in all wear scenarios regardless of the component and whether the section of pipe is straight or has a change in direction: the glass content (as an impurity and the speed of the waste.

Technological challenges in the Automatic Waste Collection project

Guaranteeing the reliability and durability of the materials used by pneumatic waste collection systems is the challenge that the project consortium wants to resolve. The aim is also to provide a solution to problems due to faults caused by wear, corrosion and cracks in the components of pneumatic waste collection systems. In recent years, the installation of these automated (AWCS: Automated Waste Collection System) and pneumatic (AVAC: Automated Vacuum Collection) systems has increased. In them, waste fractions are collected separately and transported at high speeds to the treatment plants. The great technological challenge is to establish criteria for the suitable selection of materials and coatings to use in different parts of these pneumatic waste collection systems, given the serious problems that have appeared in many of them that are already operating. In some cases, problems have even led to the complete dismantling of the installations after a few years in service.

Industrial research + Experimental development

The Automatic Waste Collection project was submitted to the 2021 INNOTEC call for grant applications, organised by the Catalan General Directorate of Industry and ACCIÓ, to carry out industrial research and experimental development projects with Catalan companies and technology developers. The UPC research centres have a budget of €93,110.24 for this project that will last four years (from July 2021 to July 2024).

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