robotic arms assemble a product in a factory

Climate change future may be found in factories

April 17, 2023 8:00 am Published by

The Generation 3 Particle Pilot Plant at the National Solar Thermal Test Facility, which broke ground Feb. 16, is one of the most recent examples of Sandia working with industrial partners to clean up our climate. For years, Sandia has helped American industry become more efficient in converting raw materials to final products; this includes improving technologies, fuels, and processes to extract the maximum energy possible and decrease unwanted byproducts.

“The emphasis on climate change is coming together with the need to address aging infrastructure across the country and an important way to advance both is to look at major energy users,” said Sarah Allendorf, director of Sandia’s Chemistry, Combustion, and Materials Science Center. Allendorf was director champion of the fiscal year 2022 Industrial Decarbonization strategic initiative that was sponsored by Sandia’s Energy and Homeland Security Portfolio.

In January, Sandia and its partners received funding from the Accelerating Carbon Capture and Storage Technologies initiative in the U.K. to develop 3D-printed low-carbon cement technologies — another part of the Labs’ efforts to tackle industrial decarbonization with the help of contributors from around the globe.

“Together, industrial and manufacturing activities produce almost a third of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions,” said Abraham Ellis, who oversees Sandia’s Industrial Decarbonization program. “Many of those industrial processes are energy intensive and difficult to decarbonize. The strategic initiative identified key capabilities that can help address these challenging problems.”

Cement is one product of industrial processes that account for a lot of carbon in the atmosphere — an estimated 8% of global emissions. The strategic initiative team laid out four ways to approach large-scale industrial decarbonization: develop carbon-free feedstocks and chemical processes to reduce carbon dioxide emissions during processing; research alternative energy sources that don’t rely on oil or coal to supply heat and power; develop new ways to capture and sequester carbon with natural systems or in products; and recycle and recover products to use again, cutting down on production needs.

“Our strategic initiative looked at the ‘industry of today’ part and how we can help change their processes,” Allendorf said. “I’m also curious about the ‘industry of tomorrow.’ How can we work with these industries to completely reimagine their processes? Could one of those approaches be deployed for immediate impact while in parallel one designs, from a completely clean sheet, a carbon-neutral steel company? For example, how would you build a steel plant if you intended to use hydrogen as a major energy carrier?”

Read the complete Lab News story.

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