TRIMET Aluminium SE is participating in the “Aluminium Electrolysis 4.0” project. In cooperation with the University of Wuppertal (BUW), the materials specialist is developing innovative concepts for a more efficient production of aluminium in fused-salt electrolysis and for adapting aluminium production to the power supply through renewable energies.

The aim is to reduce CO2 emissions by improving operational energy efficiency. A large number of aluminium electrolysis process optimisations are being researched and tested. The process developed by TRIMET to make aluminium electrolysis more flexible, which the company is currently testing on an industrial scale, serves as the basis.

The initial results of the research project show that energy can be saved and efficiency increased by optimising cathode design, plate current measurement and process control, even in the case of flexible aluminium electrolysis. For example, high-cost cell cathodes can be operated without critical wear. In addition, power requirements can be kept nearly constant despite the flexibilisation of the energy input by using metals with low electrical resistance in the supply lines and improved insulation in the cell wall. With the help of modern simulation models, data analysis and predictions, any deviations from optimum process conditions can be detected and corrected much faster. The required controller hardware and user interface has already been designed, programmed and installed in some furnaces for test purposes. Cost-effective plate current measurement has also been developed with a new type of data evaluation in a robust implementation.

The combination of these new developments leads to an energy-efficient, control-optimised aluminium electrolysis with flexible process management. In the current test phase, electrolytic furnaces equipped with the new technology show stable energy consumption, even under a flexible current feed. The prerequisite for implementation in standard operation is an energy policy framework that gives adequate consideration to a flexible production process.

The “Aluminium Electrolysis 4.0” project is being supported by the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia with funds from the European Regional Development Fund.