The companies Schott AG and Jäger Gummi und Kunststoff GmbH have joined forces.
With the Schott pipe connector developed by Jäger Gummi und Kunststoff both companies are conquering the booming market for algae cultivation systems.
Due to the scarcity of fossil fuels, an increasing focus is being placed on algae as a source of biomass. The market is booming. The organisms are now being cultivated worldwide, in open basins or closed bio-reactors made of glass or plastic pipes. Jäger Gummi und Kunststoff had already worked with Schott in the field of fireplace glass and geothermal power plants, and Schott supplies glass pipes for closed cultivation plants to the USA and Middle East. These plants, filled with water and microalgae, often have many kilometres of piping. Not only is there high water pressure on the pipes and their connectors; light, which is essential for commercial algae production, also has a constant effect on the plants and connectors. To enable long warranties to be given – Schott grants a 20-year warranty – new, durable connectors had to be developed.
For this project Jäger Gummi und Kunststoff was the ideal partner for Schott. Werner Kruckenberg remembers the 2012 Hanover industry trade fair: “Two employees from Schott approached us and asked, if we can develop a completely watertight connection between glass pipes that is both light- and colour-resistant and capable of withstanding high pressure. They knew exactly what they wanted.”
The Schott pipe connector to be developed was to be a quick connection especially for the pipes in algae cultivation plants. What’s more, the parts had to be easy to disassemble again and they should also be reusable. “Stefan Babel from Jäger Gummi und Kunststoff in Nuremberg and I immediately started work. Following a meeting with Schott in Osterode am Harz, Mr Trautmann, product engineer, created the first designs and 3D models. The further development of the idea by Mr Bachmann, production manager of the Jäger production plant, was both simple and brilliant: two plastic hinges in opposite directions that cover and secure a rubber joint.” The product was so good that Jäger Gummi und Kunststoff immediately had applied it for a patent. “We are extremely pleased as the idea for the connectors is really simple and a patent couldn’t be taken for granted”, says Werner Kruckenberg.
The Schott pipe connector from Jäger Gummi und Kunststoff now enables a completely watertight connection of glass pipes under water pressure of up to 6 bar. Pipe systems more than 30 kilometres long can be effortlessly connected and modified. Together with Institut Fresenius the connectors are currently being tested under extreme conditions for algae compatibility, colour resistance, light resistance and the effect of ozone. Final tests with rubber and plastic pipe connectors are being carried out at Schott’s model plants in the USA. Werner Kruckenberg says “We are now 85% production-ready.”
The finished product will then be produced in the production site in Osterode. “We expect a seven-digit order volume in future.” The Schott pipe connector is quite simply a clever connection!