AIT and Wienerberger are working together on the increased use of heat pumps in drying processes.

Fotos: AIT/Johannes Zinner



Realising climate targets will only be achieved if consistent decarbonization takes place in industry. An AIT project with Wienerberger points out new ways for this.


Technologies to increase energy efficiency through heat recovery, waste heat utilization and the use of thermal energy storage

Concepts to increase energy efficiency and decarbonization in industrial processes

Cost savings through resource-saving use

Expansion and optimization and/or synchronization of the use of renewable energies in production processes

Load flexibilization

Optimising operating strategies using dynamic process models and simulation


Since 1 May 2015, AIT and the Technical University of Vienna have been pooling their know-how as part of the „Industrial Energy Systems“ professorship fi- nanced by AIT. One of the most important objectives is to increase the energy efficiency in industry and heating networks through design, deployment and operation optimization. For example, a process opti- mization takes place here via modelling and simula- tion. This includes activities such as the develop- ment of evaluation methods for cost-efficient heat integration in production processes as well as method development for the optimization of systems and demand-side management and optimal control systems, respectively.


In order to stop global warming at 1.5 degrees, greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced to zero worldwide by 2060. This goal that was set at the UN Climate Conference in Paris in 2015 can only be achieved if the conversion of national energy sys- tems is started immediately. The decarbonization of industry plays a central role here, since it accounts for around 26% of the total energy consumption in Austria. A quarter of this is due to drying processes by means of fossil fuels, for instance in the paper, wood, food, textile or brick industries. AIT and Wienerberger AG, a leading international construc- tion company, combine their know-how in a project on production processes.

The aim is not only to improve the quality of the brick product but also to significantly lower the energy requirements and production costs by means of joint research projects and regular interdisciplinary exchange. Central themes of this cooperation are, e.g., the energy optimization of the production processes, the development and sharing of simulation methods and research infrastructures as well as the initiation and su- pervision of corresponding diploma and doctoral theses. The two coop- eration partners are also keen to pro-actively tackle the challenges posed by advancing digitization, summarized in the keyword „Industry 4.0“, by pooling their resources and professional experience.


Consistent decarbonization requires radical process innovations. In the area of brick production, for instance, such an innovation is drying with compression heat pumps in the process-relevant temperature range. As part of the new cooperation and in a separate project, the two part- ners are now planning to answer the open questions which so far have delayed the use of these heat pumps in industrial drying processes. In another joint project co-funded by the EU, AIT is developing for Wiener- berger a process integrated heat pump demonstrator with an operating

temperature of up to 180°C. The results of this project are not only rele- vant for brick production, but also for other energy-intensive industrial sectors. Thanks to the new findings, at least 40% of the waste heat is to be recovered using a heat pump. The significant reduction in energy costs also increases the competitiveness of companies. For this reason, the project partners are also working on a recovery strategy for the use of heat pumps in various sectors and along the entire value creation chain. Industrial partners not only benefit from the comprehensive heat pump expertise of the AIT specialists, but also from the new AIT labora- tory infrastructure for industrial applications in particular. This provides heat pump manufacturers with an accredited high-tech development environment for independent performance and functional tests whose results not least serve as sound sales arguments.


Ultimately, the project must also be seen on the premise of strengthe- ning industry in Austria and in an international context. A sustainable and efficient energy supply is a central location factor for European in- dustrial production and the entire economy. That‘s why „energy efficien- cy in industry“ has also been established as a central strategic theme at AIT. The focus here is on technologies for increasing energy efficiency through heat recovery, waste heat utilization and the use of thermal en- ergy storage as well as the optimization of operating strategies using dynamic process models and simulations. Industrial partners profit from these activities to a particular extent.

Thomas Fleckl, Head of Business Unit Sustainable Thermal Energy Systems bei AIT

Prof. Dr. René Hofmann, TU Wien, Professor for industrial Energy systems

Roland Pointner, Automation and process engineering, Wienerberger, Michaela Fraubaum, Scientist at Thermal Energy Systems, AIT, Stefan Puskas, Project Manager Engineering, Technical Support, Wienerberger (v.r.n.l.)