The increased global demand for metallic nanoparticles for an ever growing number of applications has given rise to a need for larger scale and more efficient nanoparticle (NP) production processes. In this paper one such process is evaluated from the viewpoints of scalability and energy efficiency. Multiple setups of different scale of an arc/spark process were evaluated for energy efficiency and scalability using exergy analysis, heat loss evaluation and life cycle impact assessment, based on data collected from EU FP7 project partners. The energy efficiency of the process is quite low, with e.g., a specific electricity consumption (SEC) of producing ~80 nm copper NP of 180 kWh/kg while the thermodynamic minimum energy need is 0.03 kWh/kg. This is due to thermal energy use characteristics of the system. During scale-up of the process the SEC remained similar to that of smaller setups. Loss of NP mass in the tubing of larger setups gives a lower material yield. The variation in material yield has a significant impact on the life cycle impact for the produced NP in both the Human Health and Ecosystem Quality categories while the impact is smaller in the Global Warming and Resource Depletion categories.
- Process scale-up
- Energy efficiency