Manufacturing A Cleaner Future | MIT News

Manufacturing had an enormous summer time. The CHIPS and Science Act, signed into regulation in August, represents an enormous funding in U.S. home manufacturing. The act goals to drastically broaden the U.S. semiconductor business, strengthen provide chains, and spend money on R&D for brand spanking new technological breakthroughs. According to John Hart, professor of mechanical engineering and director of the Laboratory for Manufacturing and Productivity at MIT, the CHIPS Act is simply the most recent instance of considerably elevated curiosity in manufacturing in recent times.

“You have multiple forces working together: reflections from the pandemic’s impact on supply chains, the geopolitical situation around the world, and the urgency and importance of sustainability,” says Hart. “This has now aligned incentives among government, industry, and the investment community to accelerate innovation in manufacturing and industrial technology.”

Hand-in-hand with this elevated deal with manufacturing is a have to prioritize sustainability.

Roughly one-quarter of greenhouse fuel emissions got here from business and manufacturing in 2020. Factories and crops may also deplete native water reserves and generate huge quantities of waste, a few of which could be poisonous.

To handle these points and drive the transition to a low-carbon economic system, new merchandise and industrial processes have to be developed alongside sustainable manufacturing applied sciences. Hart sees mechanical engineers as taking part in a vital position on this transition.

“Mechanical engineers can uniquely solve critical problems that require next-generation hardware technologies, and know how to bring their solutions to scale,” says Hart.

Several fast-growing corporations based by school and alumni from MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering provide options for manufacturing’s environmental downside, paving the trail for a extra sustainable future.

Gradiant: Cleantech water options

Manufacturing requires water, and many it. A medium-sized semiconductor fabrication plant makes use of upward of 10 million gallons of water a day. In a world more and more stricken by droughts, this dependence on water poses a significant problem.

Gradiant provides an answer to this water downside. Co-founded by Anurag Bajpayee SM ’08, PhD ’12 and Prakash Govindan PhD ’12, the corporate is a pioneer in sustainable — or “cleantech” — water initiatives.

As doctoral college students within the Rohsenow Kendall Heat Transfer Laboratory, Bajpayee and Govindan shared a pragmatism and penchant for motion. They each labored on desalination analysis — Bajpayee with Professor Gang Chen and Govindan with Professor John Lienhard.

Inspired by a childhood spent throughout a extreme drought in Chennai, India, Govindan developed for his PhD a humidification-dehumidification expertise that mimicked pure rainfall cycles. It was with this piece of expertise, which they named Carrier Gas Extraction (CGE), that the duo based Gradiant in 2013.

The key to CGE lies in a proprietary algorithm that accounts for variability within the high quality and amount in wastewater feed. At the guts of the algorithm is a nondimensional quantity, which Govindan proposes in the future be referred to as the “Lienhard Number,” after his doctoral advisor.

“When the water quality varies in the system, our technology automatically sends a signal to motors within the plant to adjust the flow rates to bring back the nondimensional number to a value of one. Once it’s brought back to a value of one, you’re running in optimal condition,” explains Govindan, who serves as chief working officer of Gradiant.

This system can deal with and clear the wastewater produced by a producing plant for reuse, in the end conserving hundreds of thousands of gallons of water every year.

As the corporate has grown, the Gradiant crew has added new applied sciences to their arsenal, together with Selective Contaminant Extraction, a cost-efficient methodology that removes solely particular contaminants, and a brine-concentration methodology referred to as Counter-Flow Reverse Osmosis. They now provide a full expertise stack of water and wastewater therapy options to shoppers in industries together with prescribed drugs, power, mining, meals and beverage, and the ever-growing semiconductor business.

“We are an end-to-end water solutions provider. We have a portfolio of proprietary technologies and will pick and choose from our ‘quiver’ depending on a customer’s needs,” says Bajpayee, who serves as CEO of Gradiant. “Customers look at us as their water partner. We can take care of their water problem end-to-end so they can focus on their core business.”

Gradiant has seen explosive progress over the previous decade. With 450 water and wastewater therapy crops constructed to this point, they deal with the equal of 5 million households’ value of water every day. Recent acquisitions noticed their complete workers rise to above 500.

The variety of Gradiant’s options is mirrored of their shoppers, who embrace Pfizer, AB InBev, and Coca-Cola. They additionally depend semiconductor giants like Micron Technology, GlobalFoundries, Intel, and TSMC amongst their clients.

“Over the last few years, we have really developed our capabilities and reputation serving semiconductor wastewater and semiconductor ultrapure water,” says Bajpayee.

Semiconductor producers require ultrapure water for fabrication. Unlike ingesting water, which has a complete dissolved solids vary within the elements per million, water used to fabricate microchips has a spread within the elements per billion or quadrillion.

Currently, the common recycling price at semiconductor fabrication crops — or fabs — in Singapore is just 43 p.c. Using Gradiant’s applied sciences, these fabs can recycle 98-99 p.c of the ten million gallons of water they require every day. This reused water is pure sufficient to be put again into the manufacturing course of.

“What we’ve done is eliminated the discharge of this contaminated water and nearly eliminated the dependence of the semiconductor fab on the public water supply,” provides Bajpayee.

With new rules being launched, stress is growing for fabs to enhance their water use, making sustainability much more vital to model homeowners and their stakeholders.

As the home semiconductor business expands in gentle of the CHIPS and Science Act, Gradiant sees a chance to deliver their semiconductor water therapy applied sciences to extra factories within the United States.

Via Separations: Efficient chemical filtration

Like Bajpayee and Govindan, Shreya Dave ’09, SM ’12, PhD ’16 targeted on desalination for her doctoral thesis. Under the steerage of her advisor Jeffrey Grossman, professor of supplies science and engineering, Dave constructed a membrane that would allow extra environment friendly and cheaper desalination.

A radical value and market evaluation introduced Dave to the conclusion that the desalination membrane she developed wouldn’t make it to commercialization.

“The current technologies are just really good at what they do. They’re low-cost, mass produced, and they worked. There was no room in the market for our technology,” says Dave.

Shortly after defending her thesis, she learn a commentary article within the journal Nature that modified every part. The article outlined an issue. Chemical separations which can be central to many manufacturing processes require an enormous quantity of power. Industry wanted extra environment friendly and cheaper membranes. Dave thought she might need an answer.

After figuring out there was an financial alternative, Dave, Grossman, and Brent Keller PhD ’16 based Via Separations in 2017. Shortly thereafter, they have been chosen as one of many first corporations to obtain funding from MIT’s enterprise agency, The Engine.

Currently, industrial filtration is completed by heating chemical substances at very excessive temperatures to separate compounds. Dave likens it to creating pasta by boiling all the water off till it evaporates and all you might be left with is the pasta noodles. In manufacturing, this methodology of chemical separation is extraordinarily energy-intensive and inefficient.

Via Separations has created the chemical equal of a “pasta strainer.” Rather than utilizing warmth to separate, their membranes “strain” chemical compounds. This methodology of chemical filtration makes use of 90 p.c much less power than normal strategies.

While most membranes are manufactured from polymers, Via Separations’ membranes are made with graphene oxide, which may face up to excessive temperatures and harsh situations. The membrane is calibrated to the client’s wants by altering the pore dimension and tuning the floor chemistry.

Currently, Dave and her crew are specializing in the pulp and paper business as their beachhead market. They have developed a system that makes the restoration of a substance often known as “black liquor” extra power environment friendly.

“When tree becomes paper, only one-third of the biomass is used for the paper. Currently the most valuable use for the remaining two-thirds not needed for paper is to take it from a pretty dilute stream to a pretty concentrated stream using evaporators by boiling off the water,” says Dave.

This black liquor is then burned. Most of the ensuing power is used to energy the filtration course of.

“This closed-loop system accounts for an enormous amount of energy consumption in the U.S. We can make that process 84 percent more efficient by putting the ‘pasta strainer’ in front of the boiler,” provides Dave.

VulcanForms: Additive manufacturing at industrial scale

The first semester John Hart taught at MIT was a fruitful one. He taught a course on 3D printing, broadly often known as additive manufacturing (AM). While it wasn’t his important analysis focus on the time, he discovered the subject fascinating. So did lots of the college students within the class, together with Martin Feldmann MEng ’14.

After graduating along with his MEng in superior manufacturing, Feldmann joined Hart’s analysis group full time. There, they bonded over their shared curiosity in AM. They noticed a chance to innovate with a longtime metallic AM expertise, often known as laser powder mattress fusion, and got here up with an idea to comprehend metallic AM at an industrial scale.

The pair co-founded VulcanForms in 2015.

“We have developed a machine architecture for metal AM that can build parts with exceptional quality and productivity,” says Hart. “And, we have integrated our machines in a fully digital production system, combining AM, postprocessing, and precision machining.”

Unlike different corporations that promote 3D printers for others to provide elements, VulcanForms makes and sells elements for his or her clients utilizing their fleet of commercial machines. VulcanForms has grown to almost 400 workers. Last yr, the crew opened their first manufacturing manufacturing facility, often known as “VulcanOne,” in Devens, Massachusetts.

The high quality and precision with which VulcanForms produces elements is crucial for merchandise like medical implants, warmth exchangers, and plane engines. Their machines can print layers of metallic thinner than a human hair.

“We’re producing components that are difficult, or in some cases impossible to manufacture otherwise,” provides Hart, who sits on the corporate’s board of administrators.

The applied sciences developed at VulcanForms could assist result in a extra sustainable technique to manufacture elements and merchandise, each immediately by the additive course of and not directly by extra environment friendly, agile provide chains.

One approach that VulcanForms, and AM basically, promotes sustainability is thru materials financial savings.

Many of the supplies VulcanForms makes use of, akin to titanium alloys, require an excessive amount of power to provide. When titanium elements are 3D-printed, considerably much less of the fabric is used than in a conventional machining course of. This materials effectivity is the place Hart sees AM making a big impression when it comes to power financial savings.

Hart additionally factors out that AM can speed up innovation in clear power applied sciences, starting from extra environment friendly jet engines to future fusion reactors.

“Companies seeking to de-risk and scale clean energy technologies require know-how and access to advanced manufacturing capability, and industrial additive manufacturing is transformative in this regard,” Hart provides.

LiquiGlide: Reducing waste by eradicating friction

There is an unlikely offender relating to waste in manufacturing and shopper merchandise: friction. Kripa Varanasi, professor of mechanical engineering, and the crew at LiquiGlide are on a mission to create a frictionless future, and considerably cut back waste within the course of.

Founded in 2012 by Varanasi and alum David Smith SM ’11, LiquiGlide designs customized coatings that allow liquids to “glide” on surfaces. Every final drop of a product can be utilized, whether or not it’s being squeezed out of a tube of toothpaste or drained from a 500-liter tank at a producing plant. Making containers frictionless considerably minimizes wasted product, and eliminates the necessity to clear a container earlier than recycling or reusing.

Since launching, the corporate has discovered nice success in shopper merchandise. Customer Colgate utilized LiquiGlide’s applied sciences within the design of the Colgate Elixir toothpaste bottle, which has been honored with a number of business awards for design. In a collaboration with world- famend designer Yves Béhar, LiquiGlide is making use of their expertise to magnificence and private care product packaging. Meanwhile, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has granted them a Device Master Filing, opening up alternatives for the expertise for use in medical gadgets, drug supply, and biopharmaceuticals.

In 2016, the corporate developed a system to make manufacturing containers frictionless. Called CleanTanX, the expertise is used to deal with the surfaces of tanks, funnels, and hoppers, stopping supplies from sticking to the aspect. The system can cut back materials waste by as much as 99 p.c.

“This could really change the game. It saves wasted product, reduces wastewater generated from cleaning tanks, and can help make the manufacturing process zero-waste,” says Varanasi, who serves as chair at LiquiGlide.

LiquiGlide works by making a coating manufactured from a textured stable and liquid lubricant on the container floor. When utilized to a container, the lubricant stays infused inside the texture. Capillary forces stabilize and permit the liquid to unfold on the floor, making a repeatedly lubricated floor that any viscous materials can slide proper down. The firm makes use of a thermodynamic algorithm to find out the combos of protected solids and liquids relying on the product, whether or not it’s toothpaste or paint.

The firm has constructed a robotic spraying system that may deal with massive vats and tanks at manufacturing crops on web site. In addition to saving corporations hundreds of thousands of {dollars} in wasted product, LiquiGlide drastically reduces the quantity of water wanted to repeatedly clear these containers, which usually have product caught to the edges.

“Normally when you empty everything out of a tank, you still have residue that needs to be cleaned with a tremendous amount of water. In agrochemicals, for example, there are strict regulations about how to deal with the resulting wastewater, which is toxic. All of that can be eliminated with LiquiGlide,” says Varanasi.

While the closure of many manufacturing services early within the pandemic slowed down the rollout of CleanTanX pilots at crops, issues have picked up in current months. As manufacturing ramps up each globally and domestically, Varanasi sees a rising want for LiquiGlide’s applied sciences, particularly for liquids like semiconductor slurry.

Companies like Gradiant, Via Separations, VulcanForms, and LiquiGlide display that an growth in manufacturing industries doesn’t want to come back at a steep environmental value. It is feasible for manufacturing to be scaled up in a sustainable approach.

“Manufacturing has always been the backbone of what we do as mechanical engineers. At MIT in particular, there is always a drive to make manufacturing sustainable,” says Evelyn Wang, Ford Professor of Engineering and former head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering. “It’s amazing to see how startups that have an origin in our department are looking at every aspect of the manufacturing process and figuring out how to improve it for the health of our planet.”

As laws just like the CHIPS and Science Act fuels progress in manufacturing, there might be an elevated want for startups and corporations that develop options to mitigate the environmental impression, bringing us nearer to a extra sustainable future.


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