Cement manufacturers mine materials such as limestone, shale, iron ore, and clay, crushed and screened the rock, and place it in a cement kiln. After being heated to extremely high temperatures, these materials form a small ball called “clinker” that is very finely grounded to produce portland cement.
Lime and silica make up about 85 percent of the ingredients of cement. Other elements include alumina and iron oxide. The rotating kiln that cooks the materials resembles a large horizontal pipe with a diameter of 10 to 15 feet and a length of 300 feet or more. One end is raised slightly. The raw mix is placed in the high end and as the kiln rotates the materials move slowly toward the lower end. Flame jets at the lower end heat all the materials in the kiln to high temperatures that range between 2,700 and 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit. This high heat drives off, or calcines, the chemically combined water and carbon dioxide from the raw materials and forms new compounds (tricalcium silicate, dicalcium silicate, tricalcium aluminate and tetracalcium aluminoferrite). For each ton of material that goes into the feed end of the kiln, two thirds of a ton comes out the discharge end, called clinker. This clinker is in the form of marble sized pellets. The clinker is very finely ground to produce portland cement. Manufacturers often add gypsum and/or limestone during the grinding process.