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By George Lewis

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The research projects could result in consumer cost savings as the aluminum industry reduces energy consumption and manufacturing costs.

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May 10, 2000 – (Lexington, Ky.) – Do you drive an automobile, sip from soft drink cans or open foil containers?

If you do, you stand to gain from two federal contracts recently awarded to Secat Inc., a University of Kentucky affiliated research management and consulting business dedicated to the aluminum industry.

The contracts totaling $3.5 million from the U.S. Department of Energy will be used on two projects aimed at reducing waste and lowering energy and cost components in the production and the fabrication processes of aluminum products.

The cost savings of these projects could reach the consumer as the aluminum industry reduces energy consumption and manufacturing costs.

The projects are worth $7.1 million over three years, with Secat and its industry partners contributing half of the cost, said Subodh Das, director of the Center for Aluminum Technology (CAT) of the UK College of Engineering. CAT is the only aluminum research lab in the nation supported by a university, government and private industry.

Secat, located at UK’s Coldstream Research Campus, allows aluminum manufacturing companies to become more competitive in the global market through applied research that will lower energy and production costs, Das said.

The projects are especially significant to Kentucky, where the manufacturing and processing of aluminum is a major industry. The commonwealth has 81 aluminum plants, which constitute the world’s greatest concentration of such facilities. These plants employ more than 11,000 men and women with an annual payroll of $542 million.

Those numbers could rise with the reduction of manufacturing and processing costs of aluminum.

The Secat project on oxidative melt loss will reveal fundamental understanding of the reduction of waste, called dross, which is formed in the aluminum melting process. Implementation of this project would lead to energy savings of 58 trillion Btu by the year 2020, Das said. A savings of 58 trillion Btu is the equivalent to the energy required for burning 15 million 100-watt light bulbs continuously for one year.

The second project will assist the aluminum industry in reducing the incidence of ingot cracks from the current level of 5 percent down to 2 percent. Ingot cracking is caused by stresses that are developed in casting operations. Implementation of the results of the research will lead to energy savings in excess of 6 trillion Btu by the year 2020, Das said. Six trillion Btu would provide one year’s energy requirements for a city with a population of 170,000.

Both projects will involve three national laboratories: Oak Ridge, Tennessee; Argonne, Chicago, Ill.; and Albany, Oregon. CAT at UK is the university partner.

Aluminum companies involved in the projects are: Alcan Aluminum Corp.; ARCO Aluminum, Inc.; Commonwealth Aluminum; Hydro Aluminum, Louisville, Inc.; IMCO Recycling, Inc.; Logan Aluminum, Inc.; McCook Metals; NSA Division of Southwire Co.; and Wagstaff. All of these companies are based in Kentucky or have connections to the Bluegrass state.

Secat provides space, hardware and support service to individual companies and university researchers. At Secat, personnel from the university and from the private sector collaborate on projects while individual companies develop proprietary projects. Secat manages the Coldstream facility and coordinates non-university resources in the pursuit of specific research goals.

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