Future Proofing the Ceramics Industry in a Decarbonized World
The ceramic industry has huge potential for green practices. This potential is two fold: one in manufacturing and the other in applications. With the US having rejoined the Paris Climate Agreement earlier this year, it has become imperative for industries to comply with regulations and meet the targets and standards set by the national and international authorities.
One major target which has been set in the Agreement is to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Although existing regulation such as the Clean Air Act has been enforce in the United States for half a century, there is now an even stronger urge to reduce carbon emissions.
How can the industry implement practices which will contribute towards net-zero?
Reducing carbon emissions requires a holistic approach from the very beginning to the very end of a ceramic product’s lifecycle.
Supply chains should not be overlooked when it comes to carbon emissions. The transportation of raw materials, components and end products all contribute to an organization’s carbon footprint, whereby 15% of carbon emissions come from transportation. The outsourcing of ceramic materials is inevitable in this industry, where the market is largely dominated by Asia. Realistically, if the US were to source or mine these materials internally, this would be a cost and time intensive process which may create little return.
Therefore, there are changes which can be made to the supply chain structure to reduce carbon footprints. For example, increasing inventory will improve space utilization in shipping, ultimately reducing the frequency of transportation. Furthermore, strategic analysis of data allows for the implementation of more efficient supply; how can supply be streamlined? Where can it be diversified? Can you work with business partners to implement best practice? If a considered, rounded approach to supply is taken, companies will have the tools to work towards carbon neutrality.
Ceramic manufacturing is an energy intensive process, with traditional methods of sintering resulting in high levels of gas emissions. One way of reducing the impact of these emissions is through carbon offsetting. However, there are also innovative manufacturing methods being developed as alternatives, such as cold sintering.
Cold sintering presents great potential for the decarbonizing of the ceramics industry, providing the opportunity for manufacturers to reduce their carbon emissions drastically. This pioneering process can also benefit ceramic manufacturers through lowering capital costs. Although this alternative sintering technique has not yet been widely adopted in the market, it shows great potential in the step towards net zero.
Applications of ceramics have excellent capabilities for emission reduction, be it direct or secondary effects. Ceramics provide the optimum material properties for the production of technologies such as catalytic converters, which are used specifically designed with the purpose of reducing emissions in the automotive sector.
There are also other ways which ceramics enable end-use applications to perform more efficiently and reduce carbon emission. For example, one of the benefits of using ceramic matrix composites in aviation is weight reduction, reduced fuel consumption and better engine performance. The result of this is that the aircraft will ultimately emit less carbon.
Towards a greener future
It is evident that reducing carbon emissions in many areas of the ceramics industry is not only possible, but comes with added benefits such as cost reduction. In a world becoming progressively focused on decarbonization, adopting more sustainable practices will allow for a future-proofed ceramics industry capable of performing more efficiently in an increasingly green economy.
If you want to find out more about the topics mentioned in this article, join us at Ceramics Expo on August 31 – September 1 2021, where you can attend sessions on these subjects and learn crucial insights from industry experts. You can register for the the free-to-attend conference and exhibition here.