UofL’s smart manufacturing research aimed at reducing power demand for cement manufacturing industry

May 21, 2018

 The Conn Center for Renewable Energy Research at the University of Louisville will be developing a way to make Portland Cement more efficient, and cheaper, to produce. This work will be conducted under 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.

Portland Cement is a critical component of concrete, the most widely used and versatile construction material in the world. Made by heating limestone to high temperatures, it requires considerable amounts of energy during heating and grinding. Total US production of Portland Cement in 2017 was over 86.3 million metric tons, which required 431,500 terajoules of energy at a cost of $7.3 billion.

CESMII funding of the UofL team will set the ground work for the entire US cement manufacturing industry to incorporate state-of-the-art monitoring, simulation, and control systems in an effort to significantly lower energy use. This increased efficiency in production is expected to equate to over $1 billion per year in energy savings and a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, such as carbon dioxide.

The partnership is led by Dr. W. Mark McGinley, Endowed Chair in Infrastructure Research and Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering in UofL’s JB Speed School of Engineering. He brings together the expertise of Drs. Mahendra Sunkara and Thad Druffel of the Conn Center and Drs. Aly Farag and Michael McIntyre, Professors of Electrical & Computer Engineering.

“Energy is a significant portion of the cost of cement production,” states McGinley. “Controlling firing temperatures and times will reduce cost and environmental impacts. These improvements make this industry more viable through adoption of Smart Manufacturing technologies and processes, improve their product, and help the planet.” 

“Many manufactures in the commonwealth are energy intensive. Increasing energy efficiency through smart manufacturing platform tools will make them more competitive on the world stage,” said Sunkara, who led the effort to become a partner with CESMII. “In addition, we will identify additional industry sectors for partnerships in the near future and pursue smart manufacturing workforce training.