Case studies

Pyrowave expands its microwave technology to cement decarbonization in partnership with the University of Sherbrooke with the support of PRIMA Québec

2024-01-08 / Case studies
Montreal, January 9, 2024 — Pyrowave and the University of Sherbrooke have received a funding of 1.25 million dollars from PRIMA Québec, Mitacs, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) to apply Pyrowave's microwave platform to the production of low-carbon footprint cement. The innovative use of Pyrowave's microwave technology will enable the production of low-carbon emissions cement. Thanks to the power of microwaves, which are powered by renewable electricity in Quebec, fossil fuels are replaced while facilitating the capture of CO2 from limestone decarbonation.

As an industrial basic product, cement production is globally the second-largest source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. It is also a material with increasing demand. To reduce its environmental impact, the cement industry has established a roadmap to decarbonize the industry by 2050, including the integration of innovative technologies into its processes. During cement production, approximately 35% of greenhouse gas emissions come from the fossil fuels needed to produce the heat required for transforming limestone into cement. The remaining 65% is generated by the limestone reduction reaction that releases CO2.

Electrifying cement production

Instead of burning fuel to heat limestone, Pyrowave's electrified technology will use microwaves powered by renewable energy. This process could reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cement production by about 35%. By using microwaves, the process can also produce a highly concentrated stream of CO2 only from limestone decomposition, reducing capture and sequestration costs by avoiding costly separation from a diluted combustion stream. The Pyrowave platform thus has the potential to produce low-carbon cement at a competitive cost.

Pyrowave's patented technological platform uses microwaves to produce various products with better energy efficiency and a lower carbon footprint. The use of microwaves accelerates reaction time, allowing the use of smaller equipment than those currently used to produce cement. This can have a significant impact on investment costs and the size of a future cement plant using this technology, while improving the overall environmental impact.

"The use of microwaves for cement production is recognized as a possible means of decarbonizing this industry. Pyrowave has developed the key expertise to industrialize this approach and provide a comprehensive industrial solution for producing low-carbon cement," says Jocelyn Doucet, President, and CEO of Pyrowave.

"We have been working very hard for several years to develop and implement eco-efficient binders and concretes with low carbon impact. Globally, we are talking about approximately 3 billion tons annually of CO2 equivalent associated with conventional Portland cement production. Drastically reducing CO2 emissions into the atmosphere during Portland cement production will be a spectacular advancement! Furthermore, by transforming the production process without significantly changing the chemistry of the produced Portland cement, it can comply with existing Canadian standards and thus be quickly adopted by the industry," says William Wilson, Professor at the University of Sherbrooke who will lead the project and is a member of the Research Center on Sustainable Materials, Infrastructures, and Buildings of the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Sherbrooke.

"PRIMA Québec is proud to support the collaborative innovation project combining Sherbrooke's expertise with Pyrowave's unique microwave technology to contribute to the decarbonization of cement and concrete production. This funding from the Ministry of Economy, Innovation, and Energy, through PRIMA Québec, is obtained through the INNOV-R program, which comes from the Electrification and Climate Change Fund. It is a special fund entirely dedicated to the fight against climate change, enabling the implementation of measures from the 2030 Green Economy Plan," says Marie-Pierre Ippersiel, President, and CEO of PRIMA Québec.

"We are proud to support the development of this innovative Pyrowave technology aiming to electrify cement production through microwaves. It is part of our ambitions to reduce the carbon footprint of an essential industry to the Quebec economy, and this initiative is one of the levers to achieve our carbon neutrality target for 2050," says Pierre Fitzgibbon, Minister of Economy, Innovation, and Energy, Minister responsible for Regional Economic Development and Minister responsible for the Metropolis and the Montreal region.

The financial support will be used to train a new generation of highly qualified scientists and develop new intellectual property for a cleaner chemical industry. The four-year project aims to confirm hypotheses in a laboratory setting and industrial scaling if the results are conclusive. This project is part of Pyrowave's strategic plan to develop applications in high-impact sectors to contribute significantly to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

• The project's goal is to produce low-carbon Portland cement in the atmosphere using microwave heating in significant stages of cement production: limestone decarbonation and clinkering.
• Microwave technology eliminates the combustion of fossil fuels in decarbonation and clinkering processes, opening the door to revisiting the reaction processes of clinker production, notably by changing the heat transfer mode and reaction atmosphere. Developments at this level could lead to new clinkers with increased reactivity, thanks to finer control of reaction conditions and greater homogeneity.
• The project's innovation lies in validating the use of microwaves in an industrial context for cement production.
• The project has the potential to develop a low-carbon solution contributing to the achievement of CO2 emission reduction goals in the cement industry.
• Possible environmental benefits for Quebec include a potential reduction of up to 1.6 Mt eq. CO2 annually.
• The project will hire 3 PhD students, 2 postdoctoral researchers, and 2 interns funded by scholarships with industry internships.

About Pyrowave
Pyrowave is a pioneer in the electrification of low-carbon chemical processes using microwaves. Pyrowave is also a leader in the circular economy of plastics and chemical recycling using microwaves to restore post-consumer and post-industrial plastics into new plastics, restoring their full value to address the global challenge of plastic recycling.

About the University of Sherbrooke
The University of Sherbrooke is at the heart of one of Quebec's three major research hubs. Recognized for its innovation, UdeS is a leading partner of higher and regional governments to promote social, cultural, and economic development. It also stands out for the strong growth of its research activities in recent years, its successes in technology transfer, as well as its initiatives in entrepreneurship and open innovation in collaboration with industrial and social environments.

About PRIMA Québec
PRIMA Québec, the Pole of Research and Innovation in Advanced Materials, animates and supports the advanced materials ecosystem, an engine of innovation and growth for Quebec. Through its support and funding, it contributes to stimulating the competitiveness of Quebec companies by allowing them to benefit from research expertise. As an industrial research sector group (RSRI), PRIMA Québec relies on financial support from the government of Quebec and the private sector to foster research-industry relationships.


Jocelyn Doucet
President and CEO

Geneviève Lussier
Media Relations Advisor
University of Sherbrooke
Cell: 819 212-3813
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