Research Institute of the Cement Industry

A scientific institution with an international reputation, the German Cement Works Association (VDZ) has been known for its practical research and extensive portfolio of services involving cement and concrete for 140 years. In the course of its lengthy history the VDZ has maintained various research institutes and association laboratories, for example in Berlin-Karlshorst, Hamburg-Blankenese and Düsseldorf. The Research Institute of the Cement Industry has been based on Tannenstraße at Frankenplatz, Düsseldorf, since 1956, forming a world-unique competence centre for cement, concrete and hydraulic binding agents. The Research Institute is currently home to the German Cement Works Association, VDZ gGmbH, FIZ GmbH, Gütegemeinschaft Verkehrsflächen aus Beton e.V. and European Cement Research Academy GmbH.


The laboratory in Karlshorst

The laboratory in Karlshorst

Laboratory in Karlshorst 1999

The equipment of the laboratory in Berlin-Karlshorst was at first very modest. The engineering laboratory was established on the ground floor. The physics laboratory, the board-room and the office were located on the first floor. Under the stairs there was a darkroom. The laboratory worker was given a dwelling in the attic. The caretaker acted as an additional laboratory assistant.

F. Framm, head of the institute since 1902, devoted himself especially to the establishment of a consistent analytical procedure for Portland cement. He was also involved in the work of the seawater committee and in the establishment of the standards for the consistent delivery and testing of Portland cement.

Under the management of G. Haegermann (1923-1945) the team at the Karlshorst laboratory initially grew to five employees. In 1925, it was augmented by a mineralogist. The tests which the laboratory undertook included the general cement testing of samples from 83 Association factories, the weekly testing of the standard sand and the random testing of foreign cements.

Haegermann’s main interest was in all questions relating to standards testing. He was especially interested in the determination of strength on hardened test specimens from standard mortar, and also the change in the technical mortar properties through the individual clinker phases, the addition of salts or surface-active substances. His numerous publications were concerned with the control of the concrete at the construction site, with the application potential and the properties of natural cement, added bitumen in concrete, and screening results from the 4900-mesh screen. Haegermann pursued the question as to whether the mixing water could be the cause of a setting failure. In addition, he studied the resistance of the cements to corrosive solutions. His work should be of particular benefit to producers and users. He therefore strictly refrained from any advertising.

At a later period, the laboratory building was augmented by a concrete technology department, and from 1928 to 1935, A. Hummel took over the management of the department. Apart from this, an experimental plant for the production of Portland cement was set up. The firm G. Polysius-Dessau funded the experimental rotary kiln for this and the firm F. Krupp-Grusonwerk a ballmill. A further room was provided for a collection for teaching and learning purposes. The theme of the collection was the historical development of the test apparatus and the mineral binders and also their production.

In 1943, the research laboratory in Karlshorst was damaged by bombs. The work of the institute was not resumed until after the war, in Düsseldorf.

Duesseldorf and Blankenese

Duesseldorf and Blankenese

Building Eckstr. in 1931...after destructioncertificate for the rebuilding

Because of the disputes over the composition of the cement, the manufacturers of cements containing blast furnace slag founded the Association of German Iron Portland Cement Works e.V. in 1901 and set up a laboratory in Duesseldorf for standards testing.

In 1913, the Association of German Blast Furnace Cement Works e.V. was formed. At the same time the „Chemical Technical Testing Institute“ of H. Passow in Hamburg-Blankenese was renamed the „Laboratory of the Association of German Blast Furnace Cement Works“. Later, this Association moved to Düsseldorf as well. A formal contract between the Iron Portland and the Blast Furnace Associations provided for bringing the two association laboratories into a common building. Possibly a fruitful cooperation would have come into being, had there not been personal differences between the managers of the two research institutes, directors Grün and Guttmann. By 1926, the association boards had to end the stressful cooperation. Both institutes worked in their own buildings. The Association of German Iron Portland Cement Works moved into the house at 17 Eckstrasse. In 1937, F. Keil took over the management of the institute.

After the war, the work in the partly destroyed institute in the Eckstrasse in Duesseldorf was gradually taken up again. This took place first in the three important work fields to which the division into departments corresponded.

From 1948, the chemical mineralogy department concerned itself with the further study of the properties of cement and with its assessment. In line with its statutes, the Association undertook the monitoring of its members’ cements in accordance with the German cement standard DIN 1164. Other experiments were concerned with cements which had been swelled by means of gypsum and the addition of aluminate. The research plan also included a review of American experience with „aerated“ concrete, the air void content of which had been artificially increased. This concrete was more resistant to frost and thawing salts.

A test of the cements for plasticity and the testing of hardened concrete in buildings with the ball hammer rounded off the research programme.

New building in Tannenstraße

New building in Tannenstraße

Cement testing laboratory in the institute/Roßstrasse

Quite soon, the rooms in Eckstrasse were no longer adequate for the extended work programme. Hence in 1954 the VDZ decided also to buy the plots of land adjacent to the site on which the former research institute of the blast furnace cement industry had stood. In the first phase of building, a four-storey main building with a lecture room, a workshop and a dwelling house for employees was built. On 1 June 1956, the new building was formally opened.

After just five years, a first extension became necessary. By creating a cellar under the courtyard, urgently needed work and storage rooms were gained. In 1965, it was possible to move into the first three floors of the extension in the Roßstrasse. In addition, in 1972 the Association bought a further 160 m2strip of land behind the institute.

On this plot of land, it extended the concreting hall to double the ground area. In the cellar of the new building, several large frost chambers accessible to vehicles and a separate insulated room for storage at +40 °C and 100% atmospheric humidity were built. Then in 1992, the extension was enlarged to the originally planned height of six storeys.

Research from limestone to concrete

Research from limestone to concrete

Today, with the Research Institute in Duesseldorf, the German Cement Works Association has available a renowned and internationally recognised scientific establishment. This covers all aspects of cement production and use. The Institute has a modern equipment park and is also optimally equipped for sophisticated, pure research.

Research on the performance of the cements has always been a central task of the Research Institute. Today a major focus of the Institute’s work concerns the interplay of the main and minor constituents of the cement. Depending on the area of application, individual performance features can deliberately be influenced. Here, the reactivity of the main components is of decisive importance. Also, the grinding fineness of the individual constituents can be deliberately coordinated by separate grinding.

The main constituents blast furnace slag, limestone, fly ash and burnt shale in particular make a considerable contribution to the reduction of the CO2 emissions from cement works. The studies on Portland composite cements at the Research Institute concentrate on the granulometry of the main cement constituents. Apart from their strength-forming capacity, the long-term durability of the concretes produced from these cements is decisive for their market success.

In the concrete building technology field, the technical and economic principles for concretes with special performance features are being further developed in laboratory studies and practical applications. Among these are for example concretes with high acid resistance or self-compacting concrete.

For high-strength concretes, load-free deformation (contraction) and tensile strength and breaking strain were studied. In addition, there are wide-ranging research studies on transport construction, e.g. road construction, the products of road construction, and the ballastless track for the newly constructed stretches of the German Railways.

The optimal mode of production

The optimal mode of production

Mill experiment

The overriding aim of process tech-nology research is to optimise the energy consumption and the use of the workforce during cement pro-duction, and also the quality and uniformity of the cement. The Research Institute has extensive knowledge from wide-ranging and systematic studies on rotary kiln and grinding installations. The most recent measurements on kiln instal-lations should above all clarify the question of how increased material cycles can be reduced by process technology, so that disturbing kiln coating and process breakdowns can be avoided. Here, the effects that the composition of the raw material and the operation of the rotary kiln and preheater can have on the SO2

A further major focus of the studies on precalciner plants concerns the possibilities for NOxreduction by carrying out staged combustion in the calciner.

Industrial and semi-industrial grinding and classifier installations are also being studied by the Research Institute. Above all, the effects of the different grinding systems and the modern classifier designs and modes of operation are tested. These affect the energy utilisation, the operating performance of the plants and the product properties. Particularly interesting here is the question as to how through different grinding plant systems, by grinding plants with high-pressure grinding rolls and cage rotor classifier, with ball-mills and cage rotor classifier, or with roller mills and cage rotor classifier, products can be manufactured which have different, deliberately adjusted particle size distributions. For the grinding of dry grinding feedstock the state of the technology is that the lowest use of electrical energy can be achieved by the use of the high-pressure grinding rolls, or else the roller mill. For the grinding and drying of moist feed, the roller mill is an efficient alternative.

Emissions reduction as the aim

Emissions reduction as the aim

The testing of the environmental compatibility in the use of different secondary fuels and raw materials is in the forefront of many studies. The inputs of trace elements into the kiln system via secondary materials can increase or decline depending on the origin of the wastes. The trace elements are predominantly bound into the clinker. Only the highly volatile element mercury is relevant for emissions, and the input of this into the kiln system is limited by restricting the content in the materials used.

So that secondary raw materials can be used in an environmentally safe way in the cement industry, the effect of the raw materials and the mode of operation of the kiln on the emissions of individual organic compounds was investigated. The studies were performed inter alia with a continuously measuring mass spectrometer on kiln installations. They show that no marked changes in the quantity of individual organic compounds released occur as a result of the substitution of natural raw materials by secondary ones. Raw materials which contain a high proportion of volatile organic components can be added at higher temperatures such as in the region of the calciner or kiln inlet. In this temperature range, the organic compounds are fully converted.

European research platform

European research platform

At the start of the new millennium, changes in the industry present the VDZ with new challenges. The regulations and the standardisation that relate to cement and concrete increasingly take place at European level. Hence in the future the VDZ no longer has to represent the technical and scientific interests of its members in the hydraulic binder field exclusively at the national, but increasingly at the European level. But the cement industry itself has also since the 90s been undergoing an increasing internationalisation process. Hence the institute increasingly receives requests from abroad; many international cement manufacturers wish to share in the research findings. For this reason, at the start of 2002, the VDZ defined its previous objectives afresh: It has created the basis for a European research platform.

The positive experiences with the joint research at the national level form the basis for the development of this European research platform, the „European Cement Research Academy“. Founded in summer 2002 as an independent company, the Academy will begin its actual work in 2003. There, as an additional offer, research results will be more extensively communicated to the participants in seminars and conferences. The Academy is organisationally separate from the VDZ and is open to all cement manufacturers. Here it is immaterial whether or not these are regular members of the VDZ. The independence of the Academy ensures the equal treatment of all its members. All members have the same rights and obligations. The work of the Academy is decided by a Technical Advisory Board staffed at the European level.

Through the foundation of the European Cement Research Academy, the VDZ retains its well-established form. Its statutory activity remains the same. However, through the foundation of the Academy, the VDZ is emphatically adopting a European orientation, without throwing past achievements overboard in the process.


Dr. Martin Schneider

Dr Martin Schneider

Phone: +49-211-45 78-0

Fax: +49-211-45 78-296