Bottom ash is part of the non-combustible residue of combustion in a furnace or incinerator. In an industrial context, it has traditionally referred to coal combustion and comprises traces of combustibles embedded in forming clinkers and sticking to hot side walls of a coal-burning furnace during its operation. The portion of the ash that escapes up the chimney or stack is, however, referred to as fly ash. The clinkers fall by themselves into the bottom hopper of a coal-burning furnace and are cooled. The above portion of the ash is referred to as bottom ash too. Additionally, modern municipal waste incinerators try in reducing the production of dioxins by incinerating at 850 to 950 (degrees Celsius) for at least two seconds forming bottom ash as byproduct.
In a conventional water impounded hopper (WIH) system, the clinker lumps get crushed to small sizes by clinker grinders mounted under water and fall down into a trough from where a water ejector takes them out to a sump. From there it is pumped out by suitable rotary pumps to dumping yard far away. In another arrangement a continuous link chain scrapes out the clinkers from under water and feeds them to clinker grinders outside the bottom ash hopper.
More modern systems adopt a continuous removal philosophy. Essentially, a heavy duty chain conveyor submerged in a water bath below the furnace which quenches hot ash as it falls from the combustion chamber and removes the wet ash continuously up to a de-watering slope before onward discharge into mechanical conveyors or directly to storage silos.
These days bottom ash can be extracted, cooled and conveyed using dry ash technology from various companies. Dry ash handling has many benefits. When left dry the ash can be used to make concrete and other useful materials. There are also several environmental benefits.
Bottom ash may be used as raw alternative material, replacing earth or sand or aggregates, for example in road construction and in cement kilns (clinker production). A noticeable other use is as growing medium in horticulture (usually after sieving). In the United Kingdom it is known as furnace bottom ash (FBA), to distinguish it from incinerator bottom ash (IBA), the non-combustible elements remaining after incineration. A pioneer use of bottom ash was in the production of concrete blocks used to construct many high-rise flats in London in the 1960s.