Energy and Building Technology

Giant industrial steam boilers and tiny semiconductor sensors Savings on really big and really small items

  • Tailored boiler systems
  • Micro-gyroscope with world’s lowest energy consumption
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  • November 27, 2014
  • Energy and Building Technology
  • Press releases
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press release

Stuttgart/Reutlingen – In the opinion of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), one of the ways to limit our atmosphere’s rise in temperature is by improving energy efficiency – in other words, achieving the same output while using less energy. Bosch research engineers are pursuing this goal for both the largest and the smallest of the company’s products: industrial steam boilers that weigh tons and tiny semiconductor sensors.

Giant industrial steam boilers
Steam boilers are Bosch’s biggest and heaviest energy-supply products. They are over 12 meters long and can weigh more than 130 tons in operation. Every hour, they are capable of delivering around 55 tons of steam – as is the case at Valenzi GmbH & Co. KG, a company based in Suderburg, Germany, that produces some 4,000 tons of mushrooms, 2,000 tons of fruit, and 700 tons of soup vegetables annually. The company employs two efficient Bosch steam boilers.

  • Each produces five tons of steam per hour. First, the boiler feed water passes into the integrated waste heat recovery unit and is pre-heated using hot flue gas. This increases the boiler’s energy efficiency by roughly 5 percent – with a proportionate drop in fuel consumption.

  • The gas burners’ electronic combined control system ensures optimum doses of fuel and combustion air. Compared to the mechanical control used by older combustion systems, this allows for more precise tuning, which further reduces fuel consumption. The burner output is smoothly adjusted to the actual steam requirement, and can be throttled back to approximately 17 percent of rated output. This greatly reduces the switching frequency of the burners, as well as reducing energy losses caused by upstream ventilation of the flue gas channels.

  • The fan’s engine speed is adjusted depending on burner output. In the partial-load range, this leads to significantly lower electrical power input.

  • The boilers are equipped with a heat maintenance device: a heating coil is built into the boiler floor. This allows the boiler in operation to maintain the heat of the second boiler at a low pressure, which saves energy, avoids corrosion, and ensures rapid availability.

  • A boiler system has a service life of between 20 and 40 years. Depending on the situation, it is typically possible to achieve efficiency gains of between 10 and 30 percent by replacing or modernizing older systems. At today’s fuel prices, even the largest facilities will amortize quickly.

  • Valenzi is expecting its investment in the new boiler system to deliver annual energy cost savings of some 40,000 euros. It will bring down CO2 emissions by some 300 tons per year.
Tiny semiconductor sensors
Semiconductor sensors are Bosch’s smallest products. These MEMS (micro-electromechanical systems) sensors act as sensory organs for smartphones and other electronic devices. Engineers create the most delicate of silicon structures for them. As the sensor casing measuring just a few millimeters moves, these structures shift a fraction of a thousandth of a millimeter. The finest movements measured are less than half the diameter of an atom. These minuscule movements change the sensors’ electrical properties, which are then converted into a data stream that lets a smartphone “know” how it is oriented. Then the phone can rotate the image on its display accordingly. The dimensions that Bosch works to here are incredibly small; while a human hair has a diameter of 70 thousandths of a millimeter (70 micrometers), some sensor components measure only 1 micrometer – that is 70 times smaller than the diameter of a single human hair.

This is how Bosch subsidiary Bosch Sensortec (BST) produces the world’s smallest and most energy-saving sensor unit, the BMI160. Inside its housing, which measures just 2.5 x 3.0 x 0.8 millimeters, this unit contains an accelerometer and a yaw-rate sensor (gyroscope), among others. The BMI160 measures the orientation of smartphones with great precision. Other applications include tablets, wearables, remote control units, game controllers, head-mounted displays, and smart glasses. The problem is that today’s sensors draw too much electricity from mobile devices. But when the BMI160’s accelerometer and gyroscope are in full operational mode, its typical electricity consumption is just 950 microamperes – that’s less than half the standard in the market and is a world record.

“That means our chip can be running all day inside the smartphone and doesn’t have to be turned off when not in use to conserve the device’s battery,” says Torsten Ohms, who is responsible for developing this chip at Bosch Sensortec. One application sees a smartphone using the sensors to record all its user’s activities throughout the day, so it can then report how much energy the user expended traveling to work, walking around the office, or going up and down stairs. “People who want to lose weight can for instance choose what to have for dinner based on how many calories they’ve burned that day,” Ohms says.

To save energy, one of the things he and his colleagues have done is refine the chip’s silicon structures even further. It now converts movements into electricity even more efficiently than before, so it takes less energy to amplify the weak electrical signals. In addition, the sensor can store its own data, rather than constantly transmitting them to the smartphone’s particularly energy-hungry main processor. “What’s more, we switch off parts of the BMI160 when they’re not needed,” Ohms explains. “If a smartphone is just lying motionless on the table for two hours, there’s no need for the sensor to be calculating the yaw rate. So the gyroscope stays switched off – until the accelerometer detects motion, when it switches back on again.”

Details on the boilers at Valenzi:
Details on the BMI160 sensor:

Readers’ contact (sensors):
Tina Horstmann,
phone: +49 7121 35-35924

The Bosch Group is a leading global supplier of technology and services. It employs roughly 375,000 associates worldwide (as of December 31, 2015). The company generated sales of 70.6 billion euros in 2015. Its operations are divided into four business sectors: Mobility Solutions, Industrial Technology, Consumer Goods, and Energy and Building Technology. The Bosch Group comprises Robert Bosch GmbH and its roughly 440 subsidiaries and regional companies in some 60 countries. Including sales and service partners, Bosch’s global manufacturing and sales network covers some 150 countries. The basis for the company’s future growth is its innovative strength. Bosch employs 55,800 associates in research and development at 118 locations across the globe. The Bosch Group’s strategic objective is to deliver innovations for a connected life. Bosch improves quality of life worldwide with products and services that are innovative and spark enthusiasm. In short, Bosch creates technology that is “Invented for life.”

The company was set up in Stuttgart in 1886 by Robert Bosch (1861-1942) as “Workshop for Precision Mechanics and Electrical Engineering.” The special ownership structure of Robert Bosch GmbH guarantees the entrepreneurial freedom of the Bosch Group, making it possible for the company to plan over the long term and to undertake significant up-front investments in the safeguarding of its future. Ninety-two percent of the share capital of Robert Bosch GmbH is held by Robert Bosch Stiftung GmbH, a charitable foundation. The majority of voting rights are held by Robert Bosch Industrietreuhand KG, an industrial trust. The entrepreneurial ownership functions are carried out by the trust. The remaining shares are held by the Bosch family and by Robert Bosch GmbH.

Additional information is available online at and,

PI8665 - November 27, 2014

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