Ohmic Heating in the Chemical Industry

‘Ohmic Heating’ (also known as a Joule heating, and electric resistance heating) is direct volumetric heating of a product by conduction of electric current through it.

Conventional heating using heat exchangers or jacketed vessels is dependent on heat transfer to and from the heated surface followed by heat transfer into the product by conduction and convection and often requiring assistance by mixing.  Ohmic heating heats the whole of the product internally including particulates without the drawback of the hot heat transfer surface.  The heating can be very fast (1000 °C / min) very uniform and very accurately controlled which helps specificity of reactions, yield and conversion efficiency.

Ohmic heating brings therefore;

• Direct volumetric heat generation within the product
• No external heat transfer required
• No hot surfaces involved
• Very rapid start-up and shutdown and rapid heating
• Very precise temperature control
• High efficiency >95%
• Can handle slurries with high solid contents up to 80% solids
• Can process streams with large particulates
• Can heat viscous products e.g. to 100000 cP
• Low pressure drop, minimal shear, with large open flow channel
• Low heater product volume with in-line heating
• Reduced fouling and thermal degradation
• Not limited by heat transfer area or low heat transfer coefficients

Ohmic heating can be used for heating chemicals and reactants, for recirculation heating, for boost heating, for in line temperature recovery/trimming, for very precise temperature control, for electrical conductivity modification. The method can be combined with hold sections where time at temperature is required. In line mixing can be combined or introduced between heating zones or post heating.

The method enables a shift away from batch processing with slow heat transfer in vessels, long heating times reliant on mixing for uniformity of heating, poor accuracy of time at target temperature.
In contrast very fast heat generation within all of the product, high accuracy of time at target temperature and a continuous inline process is provided. Almost any pumpable product/fluid with an electrical conductivity can be heated.

The heating method is very efficient with typically 95% of the supplied electrical energy dissipated in the product. The wholly electrical nature of the technology also means that the process is highly controllable, convenient for services, instantaneously controlled. The voltage and current flow into the product and can be measured very accurately so precise energy delivery into the product can be realised coupled with continuous mass flow measurement if desired. When the electrical process cost is compared to the overall cost and efficiency and infrastructure requirements for a steam process the economics and convenience are very favourable. The average steam heating system using heat exchangers only achieves an energy efficiency of 56% from fossil fuel into the product.

Bespoke designs can be tailored to specific processes and products and we have many years experience building bespoke heaters and plants. Bespoke units can incorporate;
• Innovative and varied electrode arrangements, collinear, transverse plates, transverse rods, open channel heaters, meander electrodes
• Cooled or temperature controlled electrodes
• Pipe/flow-channel surfaces can be heated or cooled if this is desired to influence the temperature in the boundary layer
• Some non-thermal electroporation effects can be introduced if desired for extractions
• Designs and operation to include pigging can be implemented
• Ultra-high temperatures can be configured, e.g. 300°C, 100 Bar
• Glass or ceramic lined sections can be specified
• Bespoke heaters with in line mixing or turbulent flow or subsequent agitation
• Ohmic heating can also be configured in batch applicators with agitation if desired
• Heaters can be combined with or onto a vessels if desired

End on view of OCP  Heater

Pilot Scale  Ohmic Heater

Ohmic test units at C-Tech include:-

• Batch Ohmic heaters, 0.3 litres to 10 litres.
• Pressured batch Ohmic heaters to 150°C and 180°C, 1 to 2 litres.
• Continuous pilot Ohmic heater, 50 to 300kg/hr, to 150°C

C-Tech Innovation have installed and commissioned Ohmic heating equipment around the world.

Normal Maloney, Advanced Thermal Processing Group Leader

Norman Maloney

Principal Engineer, Advanced Thermal Processing

Have a question about Ohmic Heating in the Chemical Industry?

Contact Norman
The OBA-26 atmospheric batch ohmic heater

OBA-26 Batch Ohmic Heater

Food processing using ohmic heating reduces the need for preservatives and results in superior taste and texture compared to other thermal treatment methods such as jacketed vessels, heat exchanges or steam injection. The Qulom OBA-26 is an ideal tool for R&D and recipe development at temperatures up to 100ºC. For higher temperatures we offer a prerssurised batch unit the Qulom OBP-26, capable of operating at up to 150ºC. Read More