Waste Not: Auburn Makes Progress in the Energy Battle

General Sep 29, 2011

The view from inside a cement furnace

Auburn engineers and scientists are one step closer to replacing coal with waste as the primary energy source in portland cement production.

It might not sound like a big deal, but the use of waste materials, such as poultry litter or old tires, will have tremendous environmental and cost-saving benefits. Coal is a non-renewable resource and makes up 40 percent of cement’s production cost. Using waste instead reduces the burden on the nation’s landfills and cuts expenses for the U.S. construction industry.

Portland cement is the world’s most widely used manufactured construction material. U.S. production stands at nearly 100 million tons per year.

Burning coal results in cement with known properties and behavior. The challenge is ensuring that burning waste results in cement with the same strength and performance without adversely impacting the environment.

Auburn’s Anton Schindler, Ralph Zee , David Bransby, Steve Duke and Tom Burch are working on a $1.4 million Department of Energy grant. In partnership with Lafarge North America, they are conducting trial burns at its Calera, Ala. plant.

Principal Investigators

Dr. Anton Schindler

Research Interests: Concrete production, testing and properties; early-age behavior of concrete structures; analysis and design of concrete structures; design of structural concrete members; and self-consolidating concrete (SCC).
Visit Dr. Schindler’s Web site

Dr. Steve Duke

Research Interests: Alternative fuels; polymer processing; multiphase flow visualization methods; environmental and industrial separations, particle and bubble interactions; and transport phenomena.
Visit Dr. Duke’s Web site

Dr. David Bransby

Research Interests: Research activities are split between forage/livestock work (especially grazing research) and energy and fiber crops and their associated industries. Forage/livestock research is aimed primarily at developing stocker systems that make use of annual ryegrass and tall fescue. This work includes economic analysis. Some investigations are also being conducted with goats on mimosa and ryegrass. Research on energy crops has focused mainly on switchgrass, but is being expanded to a wider range of both annual and perennial species with a focus on co-firing them with coal to produce electricity. Some research is also being conducted with giant reed (Arundo donax ) and mimosa for production of energy as well as pulp and paper.
Visit Dr. Bransby’s Web site

Dr. Tom Burch

Research Interests: Energy utilization, boiler safety, novel applications of materials and processes.
Visit Dr. Burch’s Web site

Dr. Ralph Zee

Research Interests: As associate dean for research in the College of Engineering, Dr. Zee works to expand scientific and engineering knowledge through research and partnerships involving academia, industry and government engineering research, facilities, collaborative opportunities and technology transfer.

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