Targeting sustainable industrial activities goes further than taking simple “green” and often short-term actions to reduce a carbon footprint. At Baikowski, it goes from common industrial good practices to real efforts for a positive impact in the long run, whether it is from an environmental or local perspective.
Reducing gas consumption at Baikowski France
To bring our products to high temperatures and thus turn them into high-end materials, Baikowski uses kilns working with natural gas. Being aware that our activities require an important use of this resource, we are closely monitoring our consumption and taking action to reduce it gradually. Indeed, we can see a progressive decrease in our consumption during the past decade:
Sure, these figures must be read knowing the volumes produced each year. We are moving towards always more demanding markets with higher and higher value-added products. This strategy led us to the production of other types of fine oxides aside from aluminum oxide. Manufacturing these higher value-added products turns out to be less energy-consuming than alumina production and comes together with a decrease of production volumes of more standard alumina.
In addition to this trend, we focus our efforts on optimizing our facilities continuously. That is why we invested in a new technology of burners for our furnace a few years ago. These are heat self-recovery burners, enabling to reduce smoke spillage while reinjecting captured energy back into the system. The result was undeniable: we cut back on our gas consumption by 25% regarding the kilns concerned! Moreover, we struggle against the heat loss and to the extent possible, we fine-tune our facilities to make them as heat tight as possible.
Water savings at Baikowski Malakoff Incorporation
In 2003, the topic of water consumption at Baikowski Malakoff Inc. (BMI) became a key topic in the process of continuous improvement of the plant.
During that year, BMI used 52996m3 (14000000 gal) of municipal water from Malakoff (Texas, USA). After a lengthy process assessment, an idea of process water re-use was mentioned. In 2007 the installation of piping and tanks were installed and implemented. This way, we reduced drastically our city water consumption, used in the manufacturing process of our products:
- In 2003, BMI consumed 14 gallons (53 liters) of city water per lb (~0.45kg) of product being produced.
- In 2020, BMI is consuming 5 gallons (19 liters) of city water per lb of product being produced.
The water consumption was almost divided by 3 between 2003 and 2020 at BMI, for a same given volume of production. The benefit of such a process water re-use is not only cost-effective, but also water-saving for the local water network. Indeed, placing less demand on the municipal water supply which ultimately reduces the water usage and energy used to clean and supply water. Moreover, it reduces the risks of water stress at the local scale.
Waste treatment/recovery at Baikowski France
Baikowski captures and retreats its gas emissions and effluents through two separate mechanisms that are feeding each other; the STEL and the Sox. These two tailor-made facilities are not only a mean to reprocess our gas & liquid effluents to neutralize them, but also to recycle them. Indeed, in addition to our usual markets, we supply also the agri-food sector with sodium bisulfite and calcium sulfate. Processing gaseous and liquid effluents is just a good practice of industrial manufacturing. Nevertheless, creating by-products is a real asset for Baikowski France!
BINA (Sodium Bisulfite)
This first mechanism enables us to process the gas produced while manufacturing high purity alumina. We obtain a by-product that is currently sold for water treatment or as a bleaching agent: our bisulfite. However, there is a growing demand of NaHSO₃ in the agri-food industry, especially in the sugar sector. That is why we aim at the ISO22000 certification to deliver our by-product to this sector. We have already been supported by an external company to achieve the certification. If everything goes well, our bisulfite should be ISO22000 certified by the end of 2021.
Sulcabai (Calcium Sulfate)
We have been developing a custom-made facility to process liquid effluents coming from our manufacturing process. It gives the ability to neutralize the effluents and it goes even further; we create an upgraded by-product: the calcium sulfate! Our Sulcabaï (in French, sulfate de calcium Baikowski) is used in agriculture for fertilization and aeration of the soil. It brings many benefits; for instance, it helps for desalination and takes away soda from saline soils. We produce about 1,2 tons of Sulcabaï for 1 ton of alumina being produced.
Common industrial waste (CIW) and other waste
We make sure that we separate and recycle waste as much as we can. Indeed, between 40% and 50% of non-hazardous industrial waste are recovered at Baikowski. For example, our IT equipment at the end of life is collected by the company AFB two times per year. This company refurbishes our equipment to give it a second life, while employing in the long term people with disabilities.
A company deeply rooted in its local environment
Founded in 1904, Baikowski® is a well-know company in Annecy area. Indeed, Baikowski arrived in Annecy in 1919 due to its proximity to the hydroelectric equipment essential to its development and due to watchmaking industry (Swiss & Savoyard) booming at that time. The company thus drove up local employment and benefited from an enabling environment for a sustainable growth. During WWII, although the plant was partly destroyed, the employees continued to produce the precious crystals. In 1954, the plant in Poisy was created – it is still existing today and employing about 130 people locally.
Hence, the strong local anchoring of Baikowski France highlights our long-term approach: to continue to be part of the local life in a virtuous, respectful way.
Constantly willing to reduce noise emissions
We managed several projects simultaneously to reduce our noise emissions and thus decrease the disturbance for our employees and the residents
- We had a tailor-made silencer system manufactured in France for the fan of our gaseous effluent treatment plant. The setup was made by a local company. Once the equipment was settled, we measured an ambient noise lower by -3dB. This represents a level of noise for the residents divided by two! In an ambient noise reduction approach, we have also installed a variator on the evaporative cooling towers of the same facility.
- In our plant, we put a cowling on the vacuum pumps. It was also made by a local French company. The sound attenuation has been more than efficient; while a difference of -3dB means a level of noise divided by two (exponential curve), here we measured a drop of -30dB in the plant!
These actions have a positive impact for all; residents enjoy more calmness, while employees see their working conditions improved.
Long-term projects within Annecy conurbation
In the spirit of long-term, inclusive development with its environment, Baikowski is working with local authorities on various subjects:
- A heat recovery system is being explored, which goal is to re-inject the heat losses of the facilities into the municipal network. It would be profitable for the residents who could enjoy a local source for their heating network!
- We engaged a project of solar panels installations, as part of the governmental plan “climate, air, energy 2050”. This project is also being studied.
- We actively participate in the local mobility plan for companies, with soft mobility being established since 2017. Thus, Baikowski is involved in 2 to 3 meetings per year with Annecy conurbation, and benefits from a regulatory support. Internally, we are promoting soft mobility. For instance, we participated in an e-bikes purchasing campaign dedicated to employees who could enjoy competitive pricing.
Hence, Baikowski chose to remain deeply rooted to its local environment, through durable and positive actions for the residents and all its employees. The sustainability of the company also goes by a smart management of resources needed for a proper running of the production units, and treatment & recovery of waste & emissions related to its industrial activities. Thanks to all those long-term actions, Baikowski has been a long-lasting company, since 1904 and for a long time to come!
Sustainable applications and markets
We want our products to serve markets that are nurturing a brighter future, with high value added. More and more applications that were exclusively dedicated to metal or polymers are moving toward the use of fine oxides, more resistant and long-lasting on many points.
Indeed, there is no longer any doubt about the numerous benefits in using technical ceramics:
- Enhanced mechanical resistance, thanks to the intrinsic strength of ceramics
- Stable even at very high temperatures
- Lighter than some metals
- Chemically inert (no corrosion, neither oxidation)
- Remarkable optical properties, in diffusion for non-opaque ceramics in general and in transmission for transparent ceramics.
All these properties are making the technical ceramic a major ally in the pursuit of performance, while remaining a non-toxic, durable material. Let us explore some examples of farsighted applications in which our products play a role.
Ceramic Matrix Composite – CMC
This material revolutionized the aerospace industry. Indeed, in consists of a ceramic matrix associated with integrated ceramic fibers. These fibers, finer than a hair, yet can prevent a plane part from breaking brutally.
The CMCs brought a better resistance to extreme conditions (temperature and mechanical constraints) compared with the previous technologies. Therefore, the jet engines can run at much higher temperatures and consume the fuel more completely. Moreover, the CMCs enabled to significantly lighten the components, due to their intrinsic composition. That is why the CMC technology contributes to reduce both the fuel consumption and the greenhouse gas emissions of air traffic.
At Baikowski, we play a part in the technical evolution of the ceramic matric composites through our innovative products. Indeed, we design raw material that can be sintered at relatively low temperature while keeping excellent mechanical properties after sintering. This kind of evolution, once again, enables to lower the energy consumption in our customers’ process, as much as the associated costs.
The light-emitting diode (LED) is more and more popular and have been supplanting the conventional lighting just for a few years. Its effectiveness is widely recognized for its brightness and energy efficiency. The common LED has a very low energy consumption and do almost not heat up. The LED is also long-lasting compared to most of other lighting technologies, thanks to its outstanding mechanical properties.
The high-power LED emerged more recently, especially in the automotive market. In 2020, most high-end cars were equipped with main-beam LED headlamps. Nowadays, high-power LEDs are more effective than the previous automotive lighting technologies.
High-power LED need a ceramic convertor to process the native blue light into a more eye-friendly light, and thus reach an optimal functioning. Indeed, unlike polymer matrix, ceramic convertors enable the system to run at higher temperatures and offer an optimal diffusion of light.
Baikowski offers tailor-made developments in the field of ceramic convertors, aimed at answering to the technological challenges of the future. Our YAGs and LuAGs are well-known for their high sintering reactivity and the homogenous distribution of activators within the lattice and thus targeting maximal quantum efficiency.
Batteries have a central role in all our everyday objects… as much as in our transportation modes! The development of connected objects (or IoT, Internet of Things) and electrical vehicles (EV) is boosting the technical evolution of the batteries. The challenges of the future are to make them more efficient, more powerful, more compact, and make them last longer. Those needs are driving researchers and manufacturers to explore new materials, including fine oxides.
Indeed, separators made in polymers show a low thermal integrity of their structure, especially due to a relatively low melting point. After quite a few cycles, internal short circuits and thermal run-away are appearing. The lifetime of the battery is then prejudiced. An alternative approach consists in coating the ceramic on the separator, leading to CCSs (ceramic-coated separators). This method leads to a radical drop of heat shrinkage risks of the polyolefin separator, increasing this way the security and lifetime of the battery.
As Baikowski offers a wide range of products to serve the upper part of the value chain, it is obvious that the applications are extremely diversified. The aforesaid applications are only a sample of what can be done!
We keep promoting the co-development of tailor-made products and thus take part in the creation of the sustainable technologies of tomorrow.