Navigation Links
MIT: 'Alarming' use of energy in modern manufacturing methods

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--Modern manufacturing methods are spectacularly inefficient in their use of energy and materials, according to a detailed MIT analysis of the energy use of 20 major manufacturing processes.

Overall, new manufacturing systems are anywhere from 1,000 to one million times bigger consumers of energy, per pound of output, than more traditional industries. In short, pound for pound, making microchips uses up orders of magnitude more energy than making manhole covers.

At first glance, it may seem strange to make comparisons between such widely disparate processes as metal casting and chip making. But Professor Timothy Gutowski of MIT's Department of Mechanical Engineering, who led the analysis, explains that such a broad comparison of energy efficiency is an essential first step toward optimizing these newer manufacturing methods as they gear up for ever-larger production.

"The seemingly extravagant use of materials and energy resources by many newer manufacturing processes is alarming and needs to be addressed alongside claims of improved sustainability from products manufactured by these means," Gutowksi and his colleagues say in their conclusion to the study, which was recently published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology (ES&T).

Gutowksi notes that manufacturers have traditionally been more concerned about factors like price, quality, or cycle time, and not as concerned over how much energy their manufacturing processes use. This latter issue will become more important, however, as the new industries scale up especially if energy prices rise again or if a carbon tax is adopted, he says.

Solar panels are a good example. Their production, which uses the same manufacturing processes as microchips but on a large scale, is escalating dramatically. The inherent inefficiency of current solar panel manufacturing methods could drastically reduce the technology's lifecycle energy balance that is, the ratio of the energy the panel would produce over its useful lifetime to the energy required to manufacture it.

The new study is just "the first step in doing something about it," Gutowski says understanding which processes are most inefficient and need further research to develop less energy-intensive alternatives. For example, many of the newer processes involve vapor-phase processing (such as sputtering, in which a material is vaporized in a vacuum chamber so that it deposits a coating on an exposed surface in that chamber), which is usually much less efficient than liquid phase (such as depositing a coating from a liquid solution), but liquid processing alternatives might be developed.

The study covered everything "from soup to nuts" in terms of standard industrial methods, Gutowski says, "from heavy-duty old fashioned industries like a cast-iron foundry, all the way up to semiconductors and nanomaterials." It includes injection molding, sputtering, carbon nanofiber production and dry etching, along with more traditional machining, milling, drilling and melting. There were some boundaries on the processes studied, however: The researchers did not analyze production of pharmaceuticals or petroleum, and they only looked primarily at processes where electricity was the primary energy source.

The figures the team derived are actually conservative, Gutowski says, because they did not include some significant energy costs such as the energy required to make the materials themselves or the energy required to maintain the environment of the plant (such as air conditioning and filtration for clean rooms used in semiconductor processing). "All these things would make [the energy costs] worse," he says.

The bottom line is that "new processes are huge users of materials and energy," he says. Because some of these processes are so new, "they will be optimized and improved over time," he says. But as things stand now, over the last several decades as traditional processes such as machining and casting have increasingly given way to newer ones for the production of semiconductors, MEMS and nano-materials and devices, for a given quantity of output "we have increased our energy and materials consumption by three to six orders of magnitude."

One message from the study is that "claims that these technologies are going to save us in some way need closer scrutiny. There's a significant energy cost involved here," he says. And another is that "each of these processes could be improved," and using the analytical tools developed by the MIT team for this study would be a useful first step in such a detailed analysis.


Contact: Elizabeth Thomson
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Related biology technology :

1. Health Experts Call for New Strategies to Combat Alarming Rise in Diabetes
2. Energy Leaders Gather in Houston; Call for Balanced, Careful Approach to Energy Policy
3. VIASPACE Inc. Alternative Energy Business Covered in Research Report
4. China Bio Energy Reports Fourth Quarter and Record 2008 Financial Results
5. Syndication Inc. Seeks DIRECTOR OF TECHNICAL ENGINEERING for PINNACLE ENERGY - Its New Alternative Energy Subsidiary
6. VeraSun Energy Selects Valero as Successful Bidder for Seven Facilities
7. Greater Houston Partnership to Lead Energy Security Discussion
8. Catilin Receives Renewable Energy Award for Pilot Plant
9. Nanostructure boosts efficiency in energy transport
10. University of Alberta and NINT researchers make solar energy breakthrough
11. Air Products and Alter NRG Sign JDA on Renewable Energy Projects
Post Your Comments:
(Date:10/8/2015)... N.J. , Oct. 8, 2015  Genetic testing ... may aid the identification of more couples at risk ... a study presented today at the 2015 American Society ... October 10 in Baltimore, Maryland . ... Quest Diagnostics (NYSE: DGX ) are presenting at ...
(Date:10/8/2015)... October 8, 2015 ... --> Goldman Small Cap Research, a ... cap and microcap sectors, announced today that it ... PharmaCyte Biotech, Inc. (OTCQB - PMCB), a publicly ... and preparing treatments for cancer and diabetes. To ...
(Date:10/8/2015)... -- The ALS Association, in partnership with Prize4Life, is pleased ... communication technology solutions for people living with ALS. ... lateral sclerosis) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects ... cord. Eventually, people with ALS lose the ability to ... total paralysis and death within two to five years ...
(Date:10/8/2015)... ... October 08, 2015 , ... Talon Innovations, a provider of Precision Machined ... announces that it is one of three finalists for the Minnesota Business magazine’s Manufacturing ... September 25 Talon Innovations was recognized as a nominee for this competitive award. ...
Breaking Biology Technology:
... international team of scientists has determined the structure of the ... light energy. The team,s results one day could be ... convert solar energy to electrical energy. A research paper ... in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences ...
... Sales Force Reduction and Approximately $45 Million Annual GAAP ... Inc. (Nasdaq: AMLN ) today announced a ... existing primary care and specialty sales forces will merge ... to endocrinologists and diabetes-focused primary care physicians. The changes ...
... The Arcas Group, a leading life-sciences marketing organization, ... Executive Vice President. He will assume responsibility for the ... President of Imedex, Inc."Stefan is an experienced executive who ... company," said Founder and President Jan Heybroek. "I ...
Cached Biology Technology:
(Date:9/30/2015)... -- The global glucose monitoring device and diabetes management market is ... report on the industry from Kalorama Information. Sales in the traditional ... by continuous glucose monitoring and sensor segment, according to the ... products in its latest report, The Global Glucose Monitoring ... , ...
(Date:9/28/2015)...  The monitoring of vital signs, such as ... an essential component of patient assessment. Changes in ... a patient,s condition. However, in general care areas ... during routine observation rounds only once every four ... these observation rounds, the warning signs can go ...
(Date:9/26/2015)... , Sept. 26th, 2015  Results of ... will be unveiled today at the Stanford Medicine ... Engagement Using iPad Dashboards, Connected Health Devices and ... of Pharmacy 3.0, will explain how senior patients ... data to their pharmacist via the TactioRPM remote ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
... to restore vision through the use of a component ... University professor and scientific director of the Ligon Research ... has attracted additional funding for therapy development. The ... affiliate, National Neurovision Research Institute, to RetroSense Therapeutics, LLC, ...
... miniaturized lizards have been identified in Madagascar. These lizards, just tens ... enough to stand on the head of a match, rank among ... found in the Feb. 15 issue of the open access journal ... of the Zoological State Collection of Munich in Germany, also conducted ...
... Invasive species which have the potential to destroy biodiversity ... in the same way as wanted criminals, according to ... Geographic profiling (GP) was originally developed as a statistical ... linked crimes (for example murder, rape or arson) to ...
Cached Biology News:
PEG 8000 is used in the precipitation of phage, isolation of plasmid DNA and the enhancement of blunt-ended ligation reactions....
Mouse Iduronate 2-Sulfatase Affinity Purified Polyclonal Ab Keywords: Sulfatases, Iduronate 2-Sulfatase, Mucopolysaccharidosis, Hunter Syndrome, Glycobiology Protein Family: Proteoglycan Regu...
An instrument that delivers an accurate and uniform amount of light energy to cells to photoactivate csiRNA products....
interferon-related developmental regulator 2...
Biology Products: