CEMEX – Solar Clinker

CEMEX and Synhelion, a global pioneer in sustainable solar fuels, achieved one of the most significant breakthroughs for decarbonisation in the construction materials industry. In 2022, they successfully decarbonised a key step in the cement production process by creating the world’s first-ever batch of solar clinker. 

This test proved that fossil fuels can be entirely replaced with high-temperature solar heat in the cement manufacturing process, bringing the industry closer to achieving carbon neutrality.  

The CEMEX R&D and Synhelion teams installed a pilot unit at the Very High Concentration Solar Tower of IMDEA Energy in Spain, where they connected the clinker production process with the Synhelion solar receiver. Synhelion’s technology enabled extraordinary temperature levels of solar heat beyond the 1,500°C needed to produce clinker.  

The pilot initially attempted to reach enough temperature for the limestone calcination stage of around 900°C – 1,100°C. This innovative solar heat technology involves the calculated placing of mirrors, called heliostats, to concentrate and reflect the sun’s rays to a solar receiver to generate intense heat.  

If scaled, this technology would be able to abate nearly 40% of all CO2 emissions in the cement production process. This achievement is a milestone of CEMEX’s Future in Action program to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, and a clear indicator that, through innovation and partnerships, CEMEX is discovering breakthrough technologies for decarbonisation of the building materials industry.