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Chair of automation / computer science

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Dietmar Tutsch


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Aluminium Electrolysis 4.0

In a project together with TRIMET Aluminium SE, the Chairs of Materials Engineering (Prof. Dr.-Ing. Friederike Deuerler) and Fluid Mechanics (Prof. Dr.-Ing. Uwe Janoske) of the School of Mechanical Engineering and Safety Engineering and the Chair of Automation/Computer Science (Prof. Dr.-Ing. Dietmar Tutsch – Head of project BUW) of the School of Electrical, Information and Media Engineering of the University of Wuppertal are developing innovative concepts for the aluminium production using renewable energy systems. The chairs of the BUW are supported by the European Union and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

The aim of the energy turnaround is to increasingly replace conventional energy generation with generation plants that make use of renewable energies. A major problem of these plants is the fluctuation of power generation due to weather dependency. Compensation through conventional backup power plants or the storage of energy surplus is expensive or not sufficiently available.

An optimal contribution for solving this problem would be making the industrial demand for electricity more flexible and at the same time creating an economically attractive energy storage system. The funded project pursues both approaches. As a basis, TRIMET Aluminium SE has developed an aluminium electrolysis system with controllable output, which has now been implemented on a demonstration scale. This concept makes it possible to flexibly supply the aluminium cells with energy and thus react to supply bottlenecks or energy surplus.

With the given project, the project partners are developing additional innovative concepts that significantly increase the process quality of a flexible operation and, by improving operational energy efficiency, reduce Germany-wide CO2 emissions from flexible aluminium production by approximately 160,000 tonnes per year. In addition, the flexible smelter operation will reduce power plant emissions in Germany by a further 160,000 to 320,000 tonnes of CO2 per year. However, this requires handling of large quantities of process and operating data (big data problems). Central work packages are optimized cathode design, heat management on the top side of the cells, detailed monitoring and control of the anode current distribution, control of the bath chemistry and an entire process optimization by embedding all sub-processes in an intelligent cell control of the overall system.

The University of Wuppertal is working on three main topics: Use of Big Data methods and Industry 4.0 for the control of the overall system (Chair of Automation/Computer Science, Prof. Tutsch), computational fluid dynamics in the electrolysis cells (Chair of Fluid Mechanics, Prof. Janoske) as well as adaptation of the cathode materials for flexible operation with respect of the resulting attrition (Chair of Materials Engineering, Prof. Deuerler).


Ron Kremser