Solar power used to produce clinker for the first time

Solar-powered cement plants have made progress with the production of the world’s first solar clinker, the main component of cement, by CEMEX and Synhelion.

The pilot plant installed at the Very High Concentration Solar Tower of IMDEA Energy, Spain (Image: Synhelion)

Clinker is produced by melting limestone, clay and other materials in a rotary kiln at temperatures close to 1500°C. Fossil fuels are typically used to heat the kiln and are responsible for about 40 percent of the process’s direct CO2 emissions.

“The production of the first solar clinker is an exciting milestone for this transformational technology. It is a testament to our commitment to deliver tangible results through innovation to achieve our goal of delivering net zero carbon concrete by 2050,” said Fernando A. Gonzalez, CEO of San Pedrom, Mexico established CEMEX.


The Synhelion and CEMEX research and development teams set up a pilot batch production unit to produce clinker from concentrated solar radiation by connecting the clinker production process to the Synhelion solar receiver.

The pilot was installed in the Very High Concentration Solar Tower of IMDEA Energy, in Spain. Synhelion’s solar receiver delivers temperatures in excess of 1,500°C by heating a gaseous heat transfer fluid to provide the process heat required for clinker production.

“Our technology converts concentrated sunlight into the hottest existing solar process heat – over 1,500°C – on the market,” said Dr. Gianluca Ambrosetti, CEO and Co-Founder of Synhelion, headquartered in Switzerland. “We are proud to partner with CEMEX to demonstrate one specific industrially relevant application of our fully renewable, high-temperature solar thermal.”

The pilot is the first successful calcination clinker ever achieved using solar energy alone. The clinker was used to make cement and was then further processed into concrete. In the next phase of their joint research and development project, CEMEX and Synhelion aim to produce solar clinker in higher volumes as they work on an industrial-scale pilot at a cement plant.

Abhishek Maheswari
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