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Limits of Energy Resource Use In Traditional Technological

Processes: A General Approach and a Metal Bonding Case Study

Rahul Nehete Cheng-Nien Yu Dusan P. Sekulic University of Kentucky,
Abstract. This paper offers two approaches to the formulation of the limits of energy use in
the context of sustainability. The first view visited is a global positioning of the energy
resources use as a driver of social progress, while the second one offers a close-up insight into
an energy use at a process level, at the domain where actual energy transformations take
place. The two are connected through social, economic and environmental frameworks, all
within the realm of sustainable development. The study of the process level energy use
includes a detailed analysis of all energy flows featured by a state-of-the-art net-shape
manufacturing process of bonding aluminum components of an assembly. The specific energy
use vs. production rate of this process is compared with the set of 36 manufacturing
Introduction. It has been demonstrated that energy utilization improvements, within realm of
traditional technologies are, as a rule, rarely sizable, as opposed to cases of technologies
newly developed with a specific objective to reduce the resource use, Sekulic (2011a).
Traditional process efficiency improvements follow rather evolutionary trends, evolving and at
the same time being constrained along/by the lasting technology development paths. The main
characteristic of such an evolution is a diminishing rate of an increase of the efficiency. An
investment into a technology improvement at a relatively advanced stage may not easily be
justified as the path of the technology development progresses into the future. A metric
needed to facilitate an assessment of a margin for improvement of energy resources use, and
the rate of change, should be related to a theoretical limit of energy resources use for a given
task, irrespective of technology.
Findings of a study of current state of affairs of adequate metrics for sustainable development
are discouraging. Namely, a vast number of metrics actually does not help in focusing on a
comprehensive approach. An approach selected often covers social, environmental, economics
and institutional realms more or less separately, Sekulic (2011a). Still, ... [metrics] can help to
measure and calibrate progress towards sustainable development goals. They can provide an
early warning, sounding an alarm in time to prevent economic, social and environmental
damage. Desa (2001). Arrow et al. (2003) have offered a rigorous economic framework
through sustaining the time rate of change of the aggregate utility involving total consumption,
i.e., that variable must be a steady increasing function of time. We consider an economic
aggregation in such a framework as being a promoter of a weaker form of sustainability.
Proceedings of the International Symposium on Sustainable Systems and Technologies (ISSN 2329-9169) is
published annually by the Sustainable Conoscente Network. Melissa Bilec and Jun-ki Choi, co-editors.
Copyright 2013 by Rahul Nehete, Cheng-Nien Yu Dusan P. Sekulic. Licensed under CC-BY 3.0.
Cite As:
Limits of Energy Resources Use In Traditional Technological Processes a General Approach and a Metal Bonding
Case Study. Proc. ISSST, Rahul Nehete, Cheng-Nien Yu Dusan P. Sekulic. http://dx.doi.org/10.6084/
m9.figshare.862916. v1 (2013)
However, primary energy resources use compounded within a system across all processes still
does not offer an insight into the contribution of a particular technology development at the
primary level of its use. In other words, an energy resources use estimate has to be more
transparent on the side of individual processes involved, leading to the ultimate energy
resources demand expressed through a subsequent aggregation up to the global level.
Ultimately, we complement the specific energy vs. the production rate plot, Gutowski et al.
(2009), with additional number of data points, and confront some of these data with an
established minimum of energy resource use for the given task irrespective of the considered
technology family.
Energy Resource Use Metric vs. Sustainability. Figure 1 summarizes the general approach
to linking sustainability metrics at a compounded level far beyond an individual technological
process, Sekulic (2011b). The graphical representation of Fig. 1 offers a sequence of plots of
three major metrics involving environmental - primary energy resource use (US E.I.A, 2013),
economics - Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita (World Bank, 2013), and social - Human
Development Index, (HDI 2008). The selection of metrics should be a subject of a rigorous
sustainability analysis consideration and may differ from the ones presented. The metrics
included were selected for the sake of obviousness and simplicity because of their broad
presence. The plot is constructed for the United States primary energy use, corresponding GDP
per capita, and resulting HDI over the past 30 years. Similar plots for other economies, e.g.,
India and China, were presented elsewhere, Nehete et al (2013).
Figure 1: A four quadrant plot of sustainability metrics for USA
Note that the slope of a selected graph, in any of the quadrants, indicates the rate of change of
the given dependent variable in function of the corresponding independent variable. Moreover, if
a metric is a differentiable function of the remaining metrics for teT (what may not necessarily
be the case for some systems), the chain rule implies:
( ) ( ) | | { }
t c
The implications of the Fig. 1 four quadrant sustainability plot (4QSP) in terms of Eq. (1) are
beyond the scope of this paper and will be discussed elsewhere. It is important to realize that
the rate of change of the given metric in conjunction with the imposed limits define the
sustainability state domain with respect to the given variables. For example

increase 0
Subject to
reduction 0
steady 0


s <
progress 0
1 o Subject t decline 0
stagnation 0
Notice also that a stagnation represented by one of the metrics rate leads to the diminishing
rate of the compounded metric rate. Also a change in one metric may be affected with the
change in another metric if the functional dependence can be identified between the metrics
(see early Eighties, Fig. 1). Note that additional constraints may be imposed on the metrics
change (for example, both increase in HDI and GDP per capita would be characterized as a
progress, but a decrease in HDI with a decrease in GDP per capita may mean an onset of a
decline. From Fig. 1 it is clear that a complex behavior of the considered metrics indicates a
complex evolution of the resource use and economy development. One may identify progress,
stagnation, decline, and recovery features in the metrics trends, which are complex. Moreover,
a decline in energy resources use along with the stagnation in GDP per capita and a low rate of
change in HDI indicate most likely an energy resources efficiency increase and/or energy
intensity reduction in a well developed economy.
Energy Resources use and its limits for a metal bonding case. A study of energy resources
use for a manufacturing process (Gutowski et al, 2009, Gutowski and Sekulic, 2011) must follow
all the energy and/or exergy flows through a particular system along the path of transforming
input material streams into the products. One needs to account for all energy transformations
along that path and must evaluate all transformation losses. Let us consider a typical thermal
energy use process, such as brazing for a mass production of heat exchange devices. Energy
conversions require dominantly a thermal energy involvement through heat transfer, by
definition a highly irreversible entropy generating phenomenon featuring the transfer of thermal
energy across finite temperature differences (driven by an electrical work input).
We have devised an experimental procedure for measuring the total energy input, and
simultaneously determining the energy dissipation for an open system, Fig. 2, consisting of a
hot zone with a radiation heating of an aluminum product that requires both single phase and
two phase state change in a high purity Nitrogen.
(a) (b)
Figure 2: Manufacturing System: Brazing Furnace, for the hot zone configuration, see Nehete et al (2013).
The experimental approach starts with a real time in situ data collection for determining the
energy rates (electrical power and enthalpy rates of the main and auxiliary material flows)
delivered to the hot zone. Furthermore, it involves a series of measurements of characteristic
temperature histories (using infrared mapping as well as multiple temperature sensors
monitoring), Fig. 3, needed for determining enthalpy flows of outgoing material streams and
heat transfers into the surroundings. Based on the experimentally obtained data sets energy
balances are formulated for an open system consisting of the hot zone process chamber,
communicating with the surroundings through multiple mass flow, electrical work, and
convection/radiation heat interactions, with both the product, Fig. 4, and the surroundings,
respectively. Ultimately, a Sankey diagram, Fig. 5, of all energy flows and conversion
inefficiencies is constructed.
Theoretical energy resources use is defined as a thermodynamic limit needed to accomplish the
phase change of an aluminum-silicon alloy treated in the experimental facility. It has been
demonstrated that a dramatic difference in energy use between actual requirements and
theoretical minimum is inherent if a traditional brazing process is used.
The Process and Experimental Data Collection. An aluminum assembly, Fig. 4, is exposed
to a heating ramp-up from room temperature to 150C in two minutes, followed by a dwell at
150-200C for 30 minutes and a ramp up to 600C, Fig. 3,. The dwell at the peak is less than 1
minute long, with a rapid quench subsequently bringing the assembly to 400C with forced
convection of nitrogen and cooling to the room temperature by natural convection.
Figure 3: Temperature history
(a) (b)
Figure 4: Brazed assembly: (a) Schematic; (b) The cross section through the formed joint
Fig. 3 includes all characteristic temperature histories, including time evolution of the input
power level and temperatures of the processed aluminum assembly facilitated by the heater
delivering thermal radiation flux. The material product processed is an assembly of two parts.
These involve a horizontal and a vertical piece assembled together, Fig 4.
The aluminum alloy surfaces are in a wedge-tee configuration to be bonded by molten
aluminum clad. The cross-section of the bond (a task of the process achieved by using brazing
CAB technology) is presented in Fig. 4b. The brazing process (Sekulic, 2013) leads to melting
of the clad (horizontal mating surface) and the molten phase driven by surface tension fills the
gap forming the characteristic filet in the joint upon solidification. Hence, the task of bonding two
mating surfaces is accomplished by a phase change of a small quantity of clad.
Figure 5: Sankey diagram for all phases of the bonding process
Figure 6: Specific energy vs. production rate; expanded and modified from Gutowski and Sekulic 2011
The Sankey diagram, Fig. 5, indicates a striking difference between the energy resources use
for an execution of the process and the theoretical minimum.
More precisely, the input electrical work energy needed to run the process is at the level of 5600
kJ [O(10
kJ )]. The theoretical minimum for forming the joint obtained as the enthalpy change
needed to form liquid filet for joint formation is less than 3 kJ [O(10
kJ ) (the sample mass is 5.1
x 10
kg). Hence, the difference between the actually utilized energy resources and the
theoretical minimum for the given task is three orders of magnitude!
Finally, Fig. 6 offers the updated and modified plot of specific energy used for a set of processes,
including the given process vs. corresponding production rates. New data involve multiple
machining processes, as well as brazing of aluminum.
If multiple assemblies are brazed, the data point in Fig. 6 shifts deeper into the domain of other
technologies. This plot is expanded and modified from the one published by Gutowski et al
(2009) and Gutowski and Sekulic (2011). The lower bound of the diagonal must be shifted to 1
kW, from previously estimated value of 5 kW, Gutowski and Sekulic (2011)..
Conclusion. This study advocates a selection of metrics for energy resources use, starting
with a process level and compounding the energy resources use up to the global level. A four
quadrant sustainability metrics plot (4QSP) is constructed to illustrate mutual dependence of the
rate of change of different metrics (environmental, economic, and societal). At the process level,
the mature traditional technologies are characterized with small increasing rate of change at
best. New transformational technologies are characterized with a radical energy resources
reduction. A potential for the reduction of energy resources use for a given task (e.g., bonding
aluminum including all auxiliary demands and losses) constitutes three orders of magnitude
margin above the minimum energy resources use for performing the task (the theoretical
minimum irrespective to the technology within the family of brazing processes).
Acknowledgements. This work has been supported in part through the US NSF CBET Grant #
1235759 for 2012.
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