Energy Efficiency in Industry: High-tech Glass Manufacturing at Corning Inc. (2016-2017)

Corning Inc. is an energy-intensive, high-tech glass manufacturing company with global operations as well as four manufacturing plants within two hours of Durham. This Bass Connections project team worked with Corning’s optical fiber plant, the largest of its kind in the world, located in Concord, NC. Corning asked the team to find the most energy-efficient and economical solution to ensure the integrity of Corning’s manufacturing plants in the event of an electrical outage.

Corning’s current asset protection strategy relies on diesel backup generators to provide emergency power when the grid power is interrupted. This strategy relies on power being restored within one hour to assure the integrity of the product, making reliability of power a critical factor to keeping Corning’s assets protected. Team members explored whether the current backup generators are the most reliable and cost-effective solution.

Through researching real-life examples with data provided by Corning mentors, the team provided options with pros and cons and went on to recommend the most economical and energy-efficient option for Corning’s needs.

From the team’s research, energy savings and carbon emission reductions from using a combined heat and power (CHP) system, instead of running a backup diesel generator, result in a positive solution. Benefits increase with larger capacity, and the costs of CHP and heat rate decrease with larger-scale CHPs. For Corning, the team recommended a 10MW CHP system with absorption chillers as the most energy efficient and economic solution to strengthen its current asset protection strategy. A CHP system in combination with absorption chillers would reap greater energy savings, increase reliability and reduce carbon emission.


Fall 2016 – Spring 2017

Team Outcomes

Gale Boyd, Building Energy Efficiency in the U.S. Industrial Sector - Phase 2 ($161,136 grant awarded from the International Community Foundation and the Environmental Protection Agency, 2018)

What Is the Most Energy Efficient and Economic Solution to Ensure the Integrity of Corning’s Manufacturing Plants in the Event of an Electrical Outage? (Ziad El Arab, Kristen Collar, Ajay Desai, Zi Huang, Tracy Lu, Eunji Oh, Hui Pan, Anahita Sehgal, Mengyi Zhou, Gale Boyd, Josiah Knight; runner-up for both Judges’ Selection and Audience Choice, Bass Connections Poster Awards)


Ziad Elarab ’18

Kristen Collar

Eunji Oh

This Team in the News

Duke Seniors Share What Was Most Meaningful about Their Bass Connections Experiences

Duke University Energy Initiative’s Annual Impact Report - FY 2017

Students Present Their Research and Learn from Each Other at the Bass Connections Showcase

Bass Connections Poster Awards Highlight Neurosurgery and Energy Research

Corning was extremely responsive to the onslaught of questions and data queries from the team; they supported the students’ research process without trying to lead them. The students left the year having done real-world, cross-disciplinary work that allowed them all to contribute and collaborate according to their academic levels and disciplines. —Gale Boyd

See earlier related team, Energy Efficiency in Industry: Pharmaceutical Manufacturing (2014-2015).

Team Leaders

  • Gale Boyd, Social Science Research Institute
  • Josiah Knight, Pratt School of Engineering-Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science

/graduate Team Members

  • Kristen Collar, Physics-PHD
  • Andreas Kreitschmann, Master of Engineering Mgmt-MEG
  • Eunji Oh, Master of Environmental Management, Energy and Environment
  • Hui Pan, Master of Environmental Management, Energy and Environment
  • Cihang Yuan, Masters of Public Policy
  • Mengyi Zhou, Master of Environmental Management, Energy and Environment

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Ajay Desai, Mathematics (AB)
  • Ziad El Arab, Mechanical Engineering (BSE), Computer Science (AB2)
  • Zi Huang, Mechanical Engineering (BSE), Political Science (AB2)
  • Tracy Lu, Mechanical Engineering (BSE)