First major test of TU/e spin-off RIFT successful: 500 houses in Helmond CO2-neutrally heated

May 11, 2023

RIFT additionally raises enough funding for the next phase of development.

RIFT generates heat through the combustion of iron powder. Photo: Krols Media

RIFT, the spin-off that emerged from student team SOLID, has successfully completed its first major test. RIFT heated five hundred homes in Helmond through the so-called Iron Fuel Technology, in which a heat boiler generates heat through the combustion of iron powder. This way, no CO2 was released when households turned on the heating or stepped into the shower.

CEO Mark Verhagen speaks of a huge milestone. The test took a total of 40 hours. In that time, 5 tons less CO2 and 66 percent less nitrogen were emitted than is normally the case. RIFT's technology was connected to the homes in Helmond via the heat grid of energy supplier Ennatuurlijk.

Step in the right direction

"Our goal is to reduce CO2 emissions by 1 gigaton per year from 2050," explained Verhagen. "That corresponds to seven times the amount the Netherlands now emits on an annual basis. With this success, we are taking a step in the right direction," says the CEO who believes that ultimately it is the energy-intensive industries in particular that can benefit from this technology. "These are now responsible for at least 40 percent of CO2 emissions in the Netherlands."

RIFT's installation that provided heat to 500 households in Helmond. Photo: Krols Media

RIFT heats water for the heat grid by burning iron powder. This creates a huge flame that heats a large boiler. No greenhouse gases are released in this process. The only residual product is rust, which can be converted back into iron powder. Households themselves do not notice this process: hot water is hot water, regardless of how it is heated.

The idea of using iron as fuel is not new, but due to the wide acceptance of the use of fossil fuels, for a long time no incentive was felt to develop this technology further. The concept really took off in 2015 when Professor Philip de Goey started a research program at TU/e with three of his students. From this, student team SOLID emerged, and from there RIFT was born.

Read more about the Metal Power Consortium, founded by De Goey, that forms the basis of this technology.

Climate fund Bill Gates

The successful completion of this first is test brings RIFT a step closer to the market. However, the spin-off still needs to go through several more tests and phases before it can actually think about commercializing the technology. For the next development phase, RIFT has now secured enough funding. It amounts to a total of 11 million euros. One of the most notable investors is Bill Gates, who supports RIFT through his climate fund Breaktrough Energy Fellows.

Media contact

Frans Raaijmakers
(Science Information Officer)

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