Innovation That Matters

CEMEX and Synhelion produced the world’s first solar clinker at the IMDEA Energy solar tower near Madrid, Spain. | Photo source Synhelion

Solar-powered cement production cuts emissions 

Property & Construction

A pilot project that uses solar power to produce clinker—the main ingredient in cement production—could cut emissions from cement manufacturing by up to 40 per cent

Spotted: Cement production is one of the most energy-intensive and least-sustainable industries on the planet, responsible for around eight percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. Around half of concrete’s emissions are created during the manufacture of clinker, the most-energy intensive part of the cement-making process. Now, global construction materials company CEMEX has developed a new process that uses solar technology to produce clinker – making the process more sustainable.

Clinker is produced by fusing together limestone, clay, and other materials at temperatures nearing 1,500 degrees celsius. The process usually relies on fossil fuels to provide the tremendous heat needed, and this is responsible for around 40 percent of the CO2 emissions produced. CEMEX has partnered with solar technology company Synhelion to develop solar technologies that generate high-temperature process heat (used in industrial processes) from solar power.

The Synhelion process uses a specially-developed solar receiver to heat a gaseous heat transfer fluid which provides the necessary process heat for clinker production. So far, the process has been used in a pilot project in Spain which was ‘the first successful clinkerisation ever achieved using only solar energy’. The next phase of the joint project will involve aim to producing solar clinker in larger quantities, and working towards an industrial scale pilot.

Dr. Gianluca Ambrosetti, CEO and Co-Founder of Synhelion described the process in a press release, saying, “Our technology converts concentrated sunlight into the hottest existing solar process heat – beyond 1,500°C – on the market. We are proud to demonstrate together with CEMEX one specific industrially relevant application of our fully renewable, high-temperature solar heat.” 

In addition to power generation, solar energy is being adapted to provide energy for a  number of industrial process, including farming and food manufacturing. These innovations have the potential to create large energy savings in these and other industries. 

Written By: Lisa Magloff



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