Cemex and Synhelion are on their way toward achieving a fully solar-powered cement production with the latest scaling of their technology to industrially-viable levels.
Cemex is a global construction materials company committed to carbon neutrality, while Synhelion is a clean energy company that evolved from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) in 2016 to decarbonize the transportation sector. The two companies unveiled the first-ever successful production of solar clinker in a small-scale batch process pilot at the beginning of 2022.
Clinker, the most energy-intensive part of cement manufacturing, is produced in a rotary kiln at temperatures nearing 1,500 degrees Celcius. Typically, the kilns are heated by fossil fuels and are responsible for approximately 40% of direct carbon emissions. Solar clinker uses solar power to provide sufficient heat using Synhelion’s technology, which also separates, and therefore captures, the remaining CO2 from calcination in concentrated form without additional effort.
Now, the two partners have achieved production under plant-like and continuous conditions, revealing the potential to reach industrial-scale implementation, they said.
“I am convinced we are getting closer to the technologies that will enable net-zero CO2 cement and concrete production,” Fernando A. González, CEO of Cemex, said in a statement. “The solid progress I see here proves that solar cement is not just a dream; it is achievable through continued collaboration and backed up by rigorous research and testing.”
The two companies said they now plan to build a solar-driven industrial-scale pilot cement plant.
Their efforts have gained traction over the last few years, with the U.S. Department of Energy awarding $3.2 million to Solar MEAD, a joint project between Cemex, Sandia National Laboratories, and Synhelion to study the conditions to maximize heat transfer to the raw cement mix. The project is part of Cemex’s Future in Action program, focused on climate action, circularity, and natural resource management. The company is aiming to be a net-zero company by 2050.