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)... 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)... 2015 The 2015 Nobel Prize in Chemistry ... at Dallas. Aziz Sancar , who earned his PhD ... in 1977, is one of three scientists who received the ... repair damaged DNA on a molecular level.  --> Aziz ... from UT Dallas in 1977, is one ...
(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)... Oct. 8, 2015  Today the Wyss Institute for ... of its start-up company Opsonix Inc. The ... Harvard,s Office of Technology Development (OTD) and Opsonix ... therapy for clinical use. --> ... a million people every year in the U.S. — ...
Breaking Biology Technology:
... , Former Majority Leader Richard Gephardt Brings Together ... "Best and Brightest Forum on Medical Innovation" , ... most prominent leaders in biopharmaceuticals, research, medicine and technology gathered ... of medical innovation in New Jersey, and throughout the United ...
... The Burrill Biotech Select Index managed to claw back almost half ... percent mirrored what was also an excellent month for the general ... 4.8 percent in value. The gains held firm in the final ... Thanksgiving holiday shopping and Dubai,s reported debt woes. , Almost all ...
... , CRANBURY, N.J., Dec. 1 Palatin Technologies, ... the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has issued U.S. ... The claims in the issued patent cover a family ... A (NPRA), including PL-3994, Palatin,s lead heart failure drug ...
Cached Biology Technology:
(Date:9/8/2015)... , Sept. 8, 2015  Affectiva, global ... Emotion as a Service, a new data solution, ... Based on Affectiva,s highly accurate and patented ... analytics capabilities, slated to transform industries such as ... development, retail, customer experience, online education, HR, automotive, ...
(Date:9/2/2015)... , Sept. 2, 2015 Security of ... for enterprises, banks, government organizations, telecommunications, hospitals, as ... keypads were previously being used to prevent unauthorised ... two-factor authentication, wherein individuals could gain access to ... components, such as hardware devices and numeric codes. ...
(Date:9/1/2015)... 2015  Automation and pre-processing are reducing the ... This is the first step toward a future ... unintrusive. An assortment of portal scanners, biometric collection ... will transform the passenger screening process. ... Airport Passenger Screening Market ( ), ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
... of the University of Rochester Chemistry Department received a NYSTAR ... discovery by Huixiang Li, a research associate in his group: ... make sure we're drinking clean water and eating uncontaminated food. ... forensics labs identify criminals, test ponds and pools before children ...
... announced the winner of the 2006 David Horrobin Prize ... The Nurture Assumption and No Two Alike, the article, ... of human hairlessness and skin color" was judged to ... prize, launched in 2004, is awarded annually and named ...
... is an increased risk of fetal heart problems when ... to an abstract presented by Yale School of Medicine ... 9 in San Francisco. , Congenital heart block ... the heart's electrical signaling from the upper to the ...
Cached Biology News:
... Highly efficient delivery of siRNA while ... Electroporate up to 96 samples simultaneously ... from cell harvest to post-electroporation incubation ... , Designed for use with ...
100 adhesive strips....
Request Info...
Bethyl Laboratories packages antibodies, conjugates and calibrators to provide quantitative ELISA kits. Each kit contains the following components, sufficient for 1000 single well assays....
Biology Products: