UofL researchers take aim at reducing energy demand in cement manufacturing


    LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The Conn Center for Renewable Energy Research at the University of Louisville has won funding for a project aimed at finding cheaper, more energy-efficient ways to produce concrete.

    The Clean Energy Smart Manufacturing Innovation Institute (CESMII), a consortium that partners with the U.S. Department of Energy, recently selected the center for a $1 million, two-year partnership that will look at lowering the amount of energy needed to make portland cement, a critical ingredient of concrete.

    Portland cement is made by heating limestone to high temperatures and grinding it into a fine powder. Total U.S. production of portland cement in 2017 was over 86.3 million metric tons, with energy costs totaling $7.3 billion.

    The partnership is led at the Conn Center by W. Mark McGinley, endowed chair in infrastructure research and professor of civil and environmental engineering in UofL’s J.B. Speed School of Engineering. On the team are Mahendra Sunkara and Thad Druffel of the Conn Center and Aly Farag and Michael McIntyre, professors of electrical and computer engineering.

    “Energy is a significant portion of the cost of cement production,” said 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,” said Sunkara, who led the effort to become a partner with CESMII. “Increasing energy efficiency through smart manufacturing platform tools will make them more competitive on the world stage. In addition, we will identify additional industry sectors for partnerships in the near future and pursue smart manufacturing workforce training.

    The partnership’s goal is to transform the U.S. cement manufacturing industry by incorporating state-of-the-art monitoring, simulation and control systems that will significantly lower energy use.”




    Andrew Marsh
    Andrew Marsh is the Assistant Director of the Conn Center for Renewable Energy Research, where he is responsible for daily operations, public relations and communications, and facilitating the growth of the center. He is the Program Officer for the UofL Leigh Ann Conn Prize for Renewable Energy, which recognizes outstanding renewable energy innovations with demonstrated commercial impact. Marsh is a metal and wood sculptor through his Lucky 7 Arts, LLC, chairs the board of directors for Josephine Sculpture Park, and was an artist in residence at City Museum.