Set in Stone: Dr. Mark McGinley receives award for concrete research, named Masonry Society Fellow

Mark McGinleyDr. W. Mark McGinley has an affinity for stone, not only through his teaching service as the Endowed Chair in Infrastructure Research and Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering, but through his 26 years of service in the Masonry Society. Through his experience and commitment to the process of masonry, McGinley was recently named as a Fellow of the Masonry Society, one of only 38 in the organization to receive that distinction in its approximately 40 year history.

“To be relevant to teach students, you have to practice. Otherwise they know,” says McGinley, “If you can’t bring in practical knowledge, you just don’t hold their respect. You can teach the basics, you can teach the tools, but if you’re teaching senior design, you have to have practiced.”

Reflecting that dedication to his teaching and masonic studies, McGinley, in tandem with the Conn Center for Renewable Energy recently received a $1 million, 2-year public-private partnership selected for funding by the Clean Energy Smart Manufacturing Innovation Institute (CESMII) and the Department of Energy’s Advanced Manufacturing Office. The purpose of the award is to study the process efficiency through the use of smart manufacturing techniques in cement manufacturing. The project is set to start this upcoming September.

A concrete plan

A component of concrete, which is one of the most largely used building materials in the world, the current process for creating cement is incredibly energy intensive. The process involves grinding elements including limestone and clay, and heating that using a rotary kiln. There, the materials need to be heated to approximately 1200 to 1400 degrees Celsius, but the kilns are typically primed for 1800 degrees in total, because of uncertainty as to the specific temperature of the materials while in the kiln.

“What we’re going to do is use smart manufacturing processes. If we can shave off 400 degrees, that represents a 20% reduction in cost for energy use,” says McGinley “We’re trying to reduce the amount of changes in the systems. How do you control it, how do you change the system, using these learning algorithms.”

He is joined by colleagues including Conn Center director Dr. Mahendra Sunkara, Dr. Thad Druffel, Dr. Mike McIntire, and Dr. Farag and his post-doc student. With the work split among the team, they are currently working at validating a numerical model, which they hope to port down in their second (and final year) of the project if possible.

McGinley and his colleagues hope to elevate the process in the United States to keep the country positioned as a global innovator on manufacturing. Ultimately, the process could be applied to a number of manufacturing systems that feature big centering dynamics like fire as part of the process. If so, the team may be able to solicit sponsorship to continue their work in efficiency.

“No one has done the research to see what there is to do,” says McGinley. “If this is successful we believe it can be ported down for the cement industry, which is the one of the largest industries in the world. This is the first step on that road.”

Fellowship

As part of the Masonry Society, McGinley has worked for decades to further the knowledge and employment of masonry techniques, both through his work as an educator, and his service to the society. In that time, he has served as a number of appointed positions, including his current role as the Secretary Treasurer. McGinley admits that he will likely serve a tenure as President in four years as well. But he admits his recent designation of fellow as a humbling experience.

“They have a fellow designation that I did not know I was being nominated for; you can’t self-nominate,” says McGinley. “It’s not a huge organization, but it’s reasonably prestigious.”