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Plasma Technology for Basalt Fiber Production


Technology Development and Implementation of Basalt Fiber Production Based on Three-Phase Electromagnetic Plasma Reactor

Tech Area / Field

  • MAN-MAT/Engineering Materials/Manufacturing Technology
  • OTH-BIT/Building Industry Technology/Other

3 Approved without Funding

Registration date

Leading Institute
Kazakh National University / Combustion Problems Institute, Kazakstan, Almaty

Supporting institutes

  • Kazakh National University / Scientific Research Institute of Experimental and Theoretical Physics, Kazakstan, Almaty


  • University of Illinois / Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences / Illinois State Geological Survey, USA, IL, Champaign\nUniversite de Rouen / CORIA-UMR 6614 Laboratory, France, Mont Saint Aignan\nImperial College London / Department of Mechanical Engineering, UK, London\nZarak Systems Corporation, USA, CA, Sunnyvale\nPennsylvania State University / Energy Institute/College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, USA, PA, University Park

Project summary

The main objective of the Project is to develop and implement the import substituting and energy saving contemporary technology for basalt fiber production based on a new plasma three-phase electromagnetic reactor, with further manufacturing of basalt filaments and ecologically clean incombustible heat insulating materials on their base. The specific structure of basalt fiber wool allows to reduce significantly the level of inside and outside noise in the buildings.

The capacity and dimensions of the technological complex being developed will allow to launch the production of heat insulating materials within the middle and small-scale business, without building traditional large-capacity plant.

Gas, coke, and thermal electric furnaces are usually used in the world for basalt melting. They have large dimensions, high material capacity, and are not ecologically clean. This is due to the fact that this branch of construction materials refers to large-capacity production, which is basically conservative. One might foresee the disadvantages of this traditional method for basalt melt production:

  1. Production process is inertial and has the high material capacity. It takes to start up the furnace several working shifts (more then 16 hours). Just the same time is needed for its shut down.
  2. Great amount of expensive ceramics is spent for furnaces fettling.
  3. The choice of raw cank is limited because the temperature of organic fuel combustion is low; this also limits the capability of new heat insulating materials production.
  4. It has no strategy perspectives, because ecological requirements for this kind of production are becoming stricter, and as a consequence, expenditures for environment protection measures increases. Moreover hydrocarbon fuel will also rise in price.

Production of other kinds of mineral fibers is subject to the same problems. For example, glass wool is produced by «ISOVER» firm on the base of glass filaments. In Russia, in Chudovo town, Novosibirsk region a new Open Joint Stock Company «PFLEIDERER –CHUDOVO» was established with participation of German Company «PFLEIDERER», which has the trade mark «URSA». Recently Spanish Company «URALTA» has spent 203 millions euro and bought 7 operating «PFLEIDERER» plants. The capacity of this joint contemporary enterprise is 25000 tons of glass fiber a year. At the present the heat insulation materials produced by Spanish Company «URALTA», having the trade mark «URSA», takes up 20% of the relevant European market; this corresponds to 430 millions Euro a year. In Serpukhov a new plant is been constructing. Investments into this project are 25 millions Euro. Starting from the year of 1995 the output of «URSA» production became ten times higher. 1995 is the date when in Russia the first enterprise, which is involved in «URSA» production, was founded. The main producers of basalt fiber (stone wool) in Europe are “PAROC” (Finland) and “ROCKWOOL” (Denmark).

In this project the new approach to the production of heat insulating materials is offered – to use compact industrial installation based on the efficient plasma electromagnetic reactor. This approach is conditioned by the large difference in the densities of the initial material(2000-2500 kg/m3), which is raw cank, and final product in the form of canvas or mat (20-150 kg/m3). Consequently transport of this final product for large distances is not profitable. That is why it is more appropriate to produce materials near the place of application. The peculiarity of the offered technology for heat insulation production is plasma melting of basalt rocks followed by electromagnetic mixing of the melt in the reactor, and having a number of advantages in comparison with traditional schemes:

  • the process is ecologically clean – while electrical heating no new materials are introduced into basalt; only the temperature of basalt increases and reaches the value at which the viscosity of the melt is enough to allow formation of thin filaments;
  • the process of electrical heating could be controlled much easier; this simplifies the automation of technological process and reduces its prime cost;
  • melting with the use of electrical arch allows to process any types of basalt, including even refractory ones;
  • the use of reduced rate night tariff for electrical energy decreases the prime cost of the product, and stabilize the work of the energy supply system;
  • short time, less than one hour, necessary for achieving the rated operating mode allows to follow the technological process both in continuous and cyclic manner;
  • low capital investments, in comparison with traditional technologies, necessary for installation construction.

According to the tasks of the project a processing line for producing cank melt, and subsequently basalt filaments will be developed. Fig. 1 schematically shows technological processing line for production of insulating materials. The basic element of the line is a new electromagnetic reactor 5 with three submersible graphite electrodes. Reactor’s housing is sectioned and is manufactured from stainless steel δ = 3-5 mm. The sections are water cooled. Natural layer of skull works as fettling; skull emerges from the melt layer adjacent to the cold walls, while reactor’s operation. That is why there is no need to use expensive fireproof materials for fettling, as it’s done in all melting furnaces. The working chamber of the reactor is enclosed into electromagnet with three poles. There are windings on the poles of electromagnet; they are inserted in a certain order, sequentially with power electrodes, and create magnetic field. The melt, produced in the reactor, is mixing as a result of interaction between the electric current, existing between the electrodes, and the magnetic field of the three-phase electromagnet. It intensifies the process of crank melting, provides uniform heating and homogenization of the melt. The melt from the reactor is delivered either to blowing device 6, or centrifuges for producing super thin filaments, and for manufacturing a number of new efficient heat insulating materials. It could also come to draw plates where the continuous filaments are being drawn; Further the roving is produced out of them. The melt could also be directed to metallic moulds and molding forms, where decorative produce, jewelry, monuments, and construction components for engineering industry. External dimensions of the electrical reactor, including electromagnet, are ~1.5*1.5*1.5m. Capacity of the reactor with the mentioned above dimensions is 150-200 kg/h. Whereas it is observed that the emission of gases polluting atmosphere is minimal. The power source is the adapted to the process three phase controlled thyristor converters, the one that has been developed earlier while carrying out the ISTC К-746 Project. It is connected up the power transformer having industrial frequency and 0.4 – 0.6 kV voltage.

In addition to the fact that the ecology of the production process will improve, implementation of the technology being developed within the project, will have an economic effect. The proposed cost of basalt heat insulation is 0.5-0.7 $/kg, whereas the cost of the existing heat insulation, that is in the form of canvas and mats, varies within
0.8-1.4 $/kg. All over the world about 190·10
6 m3 heat insulation per year is produced.

As a result of the Project implementation, the following ISTC goals will be achieved:

  • Highly qualified staff, specialized in the field of plasma reprocessing of different fine-dispersed materials, and also scientific specialists related to weapons development will be involved in high technologies development for the civil branches of industry (production of contemporary insulating materials, new composite materials, and industrial modules on the base of basalt fiber);
  • Project implementation will promote integration of Kazakhstan scientists into international scientific community. Participation in international scientific and technical conferences with further publication of the Project main results is supposed; this will expand the spheres of application for plasma technologies of mineral substances reprocessing.
  • Implementation of the new technology for basalt fiber production based on plasma three-phase electromagnetic reactor complies with the policy of the Republic of Kazakhstan directed on the development of import-substituting and energy-saving technologies that have both ecological and economic effects.
  • Manufacturing of industrial installations on the base of the results, obtained while Project implementation, will promote middle and small-scale business in the field of heat insulating materials production assigned for different branches of civil engineering; it will also contribute to the involvement of defense industry staff creative potential in science intensive products manufacturing.
  • Plasma technologies being developed have a worldwide novelty and competitiveness; they will make for the transition to the market economy in civil branches of industry.

The proposed statement of work:
  • To conduct thermodynamic analysis of multicomponent systems for melt of cank and other minerals in electromagnetic reactor.
  • To upgrade the production facility together with the supporting systems; subsequent mounting and launching of the installation.
  • To design and produce the three-phase electro magnetic reactor, installation for blowing up the basalt melt jet into fiber, and installation for obtaining soft heat insulation.
  • To develop, design, and produce efficient vortical acoustic mill for cank reduction.
  • To develop sources of power supply, and corresponding equipment for basalt melting installation.
  • To investigate experimentally the operation of different installation blocks, and to upgrade them if necessary. To compare experiment with theoretical results of thermodynamic analysis.
  • To conduct the scientific study for development of the technology for producing rigid and semi- rigid slabs from basalt fiber using inorganic ecologically clean bindings (aluminosilicates and others).
  • To establish technical base of continuous basalt fiber (roving) production.
  • To obtain pre-production model of basalt heater.

It is supposed to carry out joint work with collaborators within the frames of the Project. It will relate to mathematical modeling of cank melt, to development of methods for theoretical, simulation, and experimental investigations, and also to the analysis of the obtained results.

It is supposed to carry out consultations and to raise the level of Project performers’ skill while conducting joint scientific and methodological seminars and probations for the specialists.

Figure 1. The processing line for production of heat insulating materials from natural basalt scheme.

1 – granulated basalt; 2 – basalt supply pipe; 3 – bunker; 4 – basalt feeder; 5 – electromagnetic reactor; 6 – blowing device; 7 – transformer; 8 – voltage adjuster; 9 – control panel; 10 – automation panel; 11 – commuting device block; 12 – resistor; 13 – chamber of fiberization; 14 – settling chamber with conveyer for linen forming; 15 – cross cutter; 16 – linen reeling facility; 17 – control unit 1; 18 – blow fan; 19 –conveyer reducer; 20 – smoke exhauster; 21 – chamber-packer; 22 – vacuum packer; 23 –longitudinal cutter; 24 – trolley.