SCHOTT is developing climate-friendly glass production using hydrogen

As a specialty glass manufacturer, SCHOTT belongs to an energy-intensive industry

A look inside the melt: Specialty glass is melted at temperatures of up to 1,700° Celsius - Photo: SCHOTT

The largest share of SCHOTT‘s energy requirements and carbon emissions occur during the melting process. Glass melting requires temperatures of up to 1,700 degrees Celsius to produce specialty glass for vaccine vials, smartphone cover glass, or microchips. Until now, SCHOTT’s melting tanks have been heated with natural gas and in some cases with electricity.

The company is working to change this as part of its initiative to become climate neutral by 2030. In order to develop climate-friendly glass melting processes, SCHOTT has started several research projects. The company is focusing primarily on electrification based on green electricity and on hydrogen combustion. In both approaches, electricity from renewable energies plays a decisive role. Now, the company plans to test hydrogen-natural gas-blends in large-scale melting trials at a furnace at its Mainz, Germany, headquarters for the first time.

In this trial, R and D experts at SCHOTT will gradually replace natural gas with hydrogen. Over the course of a month, the ratio of hydrogen in the natural gas/hydrogen mixture will be gradually increased to up to 35 percent by volume in three test phases lasting around 10 days each. This large-scale test is breaking new ground for the specialty glass industry. The company will use these experiments to learn more about the effects of hydrogen in glass melting processes. The long-term goal is to greatly reduce carbon emissions in the long term.

SCHOTT is researching how to melt specialty glass with the help of green electricity and hydrogen – Photo: SCHOTT

The research project’s total cost amounts to more than EUR 714,000. SCHOTT and its partners received grant funding of around EUR 338,000 as part of the European Union’s European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) from the Rhineland-Palatinate Ministry for Climate Protection, Environment, Energy and Mobility.

“Becoming climate neutral means that we have to come up with groundbreaking technological innovations,“ explained Dr. Jens Schulte, member of the Board of Management and responsible for the Zero Carbon program at SCHOTT.

“Transforming our glass melting technology is a highly complex process with many technical hurdles. That’s why we would like to thank our partners for awarding us these grants to support these innovative projects.”

SCHOTT announced in 2020 that it planned to become climate neutral by 2030. So far, no other company in the specialty glass industry has set itself such an ambitious goal. Its plan to make its production carbon neutral includes four action fields: In addition to technology change, these include improving energy efficiency, switching to 100 percent green electricity, and compensating remaining emissions.