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Misuse of energy rife in industrial methods: Study


Washington : Fabricating microchips is a prime example of how energy misuse is rife in industrial methods. It uses up more energy than making manhole covers, according to a detailed Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) study.

Overall, such manufacturing systems are anywhere from 1,000 to one million times bigger consumers of energy – per pound of output – than more traditional industries.

Initially, it might seem strange to make comparisons between such widely disparate processes as metal casting and chip making.

But Timothy Gutowski, mechanical engineering professor at MIT, who led the analysis, explains that such a broad comparison of energy efficiency is an essential first step toward optimising these newer manufacturing methods as they gear up for ever-larger production.

“The seemingly extravagant use of materials and energy resources by many newer manufacturing processes is alarming and needs to be addressed alongside claims of improved sustainability from products manufactured by these means,” Gutowksi said.

Solar panels are a good example. Their inherent inefficiency could drastically reduce the technology’s life cycle energy balance – that is the ratio of the energy the panel would produce over its useful lifetime to the energy required to manufacture it.

The new study is just “the first step in doing something about it”, Gutowski said.

The study was recently published in Environmental Science and Technology (ES&T).