Solvent Refining Heat Pump

The Project

Tesla’s Gigafactory in Sparks, Nevada was seeking to improve it’s production efficiency by introducing a solvent refining method to recapture materials critical for producing lithium batteries.

The Challenge

The demand for lithium has significantly increased in the last few years due to a spike in the market for electric vehicles, which also compete with laptops and smartphones for lithium ion batteries. During the process of refining lithium for use in lithium batteries, a considerable amount of material is lost within the solvent used to coat the cathode materials during the production process. By reclaiming and refining degraded solvent, Tesla was able to reduce waste of rare and costly chemical compounds to significantly reduce overall refining costs.

The Solution

McKenna Engineering designed and built a closed loop refining heat pump uniquely utilizing water (R-718) as refrigerant. Additionally, the rejected heat was added back in as heat addition to maximize the solvent refining efficiency.

The system was delivered completely pre-piped, pre-wired to a complete starter/control panel, and pre-tested (functional test at Mckenna Engineering’s facility in Carson, CA) ready for installation at the job site.


Design

  • Fluid: Water (as refrigerant)
  • Temperature: 115 - 145 C
  • Flow Rate: 2000 SCFM (water vapor)
  • Discharge Pressure: 88 psig


Major Equipment

Liquid Ring Vacuum Pump, water boiler for make-up heat, refrigerant receiver, liquid-vapor separator, fin-fan heat exchangers, immersion heaters

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