UK aims to be the first Country in the world to circulate steel and aluminium fully, supported by the CircularMetal programme
§ The UKRI National Interdisciplinary Circular Economy Research Programme aims to create a sustainable circular economy for lots of different industries, including metals
§ Metals and metal products create 10-20% of all the world’s harmful impacts, such as greenhouse gas emissions and pollution and energy consumption; we cannot do without goods made from metals; so we must learn how to make their use circular, i.e. extend their lifetimes and increase their repair, re-use and recycling
§ The Interdisciplinary Centre for Circular Metals aims to accelerate the transition from the current largely take-make-waste linear economy to full metal circulation by conducting high quality research and innovation through a systems approach. Its ambition is to make the UK the first country to realise full metal circulation (at least for the high-volume metals – steel and aluminium) by 2050. This will form an integral part of the government’s efforts to achieve Net Zero by 2050
§ To deliver the CircularMetal research programme, WMG at the University of Warwick will conduct inter-disciplinary research on steel production, recycling technologies, remanufacturing of steel components, and artificial intelligence in scrap separation
The metal industry in the UK employs 230,000 people, and directly contributes to £10.7bn to the UK GDP. A truly interdisciplinary academic team will research how to make a sustainable circular economy for high-volume metals, with WMG at the University of Warwick focussed on steel.
The UKRI has established five Interdisciplinary Circular Economy Centres in the UK, coordinated by the Circular Economy Hub (CE-Hub), which together form the NICER Programme, a £30 million investment on research aimed at developing a circular economy in the UK, One of these CECs is CircularMetal, the Interdisciplinary Centre for Circular Metals, led by Brunel University London, with partners from WMG, University of Warwick, University College London and Loughborough University.
The ultimate aim of the group is to make the UK fully circulate all their steel and aluminium, thereby minimising or eliminating the extraction of raw materials and the production of waste.
WMG, at the University of Warwick, will specifically research steel, including opportunities for reuse and the technologies for scrap sorting to increase recyclability, working with partners in the project on business model supply chains and the economy and policy surrounding them.
The Interdisciplinary Centre for Circular Metals is a four-year project, which started in January 2021 thanks to £4.2m funding from UKRI. Discussions within the team on strategies to reuse / recycling / reduce / remanufacture / recovery and the technological barriers are on-going with input being provided to government groups.
Professor Claire Davis, from WMG, University of Warwick comments:
“To be part of the Interdisciplinary Centre for Circular Metals is incredibly exciting, especially in light of COP26, as the potential that a circular economy for metals could have towards meeting goals of sustainability and furthermore preventing climate change.
“At WMG, University of Warwick we hope to research how technology can help us to reuse and recycle steels, for example, understanding the end of life condition of steel components to determine whether and how they can be used, and using artificial intelligence to increase scrap recyclability.
“If metals can be fully recycled and reused the need to extract raw materials to make them in the first place could be eliminated, and the current workforce in the metals industry could be reskilled to work in recycling and repurposing metals.”
Professor Brian Cantor, Deputy Director, The UKRI Interdisciplinary Centre for Circular Metals BCAST, from Brunel University comments:
“Metallic materials are the backbone of manufacturing and the fuel for economic growth. They underpin the competitive position of almost every industrial sector and, including metal manufacture and downstream product processing, they collectively contribute 15-20% of all greenhouse gas emissions, pollution and energy consumption. Transformation of the metals industries from the current largely linear economy to a circular economy will, therefore, play a critical role in delivering the government’s industrial strategy for clean growth, doubling of resource productivity and reaching net zero carbon emissions in 2050.
“CircularMetal is focused on helping the UK become the first country to realise full metal circulation, concentrating on the two main bulk metals aluminium and steel, and the three main industrial sectors of transport, construction and packaging.”
22 DECEMBER 2021
NOTES TO EDITORS
High-res images available at:
Caption: A graphic of the factors considered in the CircularMetal programme
Credit: WMG, University of Warwick
Caption: The building the Warwick arm of the CircularMetal project are based in at WMG, University of Warwick
Credit: WMG, University of Warwick
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University of Warwick
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- · The Scottish steel using sectors currently employ just under 1/3 of the Scottish working population, and accounts for 31.2% of Scotland’s turnover
- · With an ever-growing population the need for steel is increasing, meaning an opportunity is there for the Scottish steel sector
- · If investment in the sector happens it could result in making new types of steel such as crude, which is the most in demand but is currently the least manufactured in Scotland
The value of the Scottish steel using sectors in relation to the rest of the world and also the UK specifically has been analysed by researchers from WMG, University of Warwick, who have found investment could be the key to reviving the industry into a thriving industry.
Steel has played an important part of Scotland’s economy since 1751. The nation’s industrial heritage has relied upon steel, which has been a key part of shipbuilding, energy, rail and civil engineering industries. There have been 12 iron and steel works in Scotland with the last major one to close being Ravenscraig in 1992.
There are currently 266,500 people employed in Scottish steel using industries, while indirect employees in the supply chains can be estimated at around 800,000, making a total of 1.06 million people – around a third of Scotland’s working population. The steel markets account for 31.2% of Scotland’s turnover, essentially meaning just under 1/3 of the population rely on Steel for income.
Between 2015 and 2030 the steel market across the UK is set to increase by 1.5 million tonnes, worth a total of £3.8billion to the UK economy, with the demand expected to increase in construction, machinery and engineering, and yellow goods (earth moving equipment).
However whilst the demand for steel is increasing, it is predominantly increasing for crude steel, which Scotland does not produce a significant amount of, in fact the largest steel plant in Scotland is Liberty Steel Dalzell in Motherwell, which doesn’t produce any crude steel.
In 2018 a total of 1.816 billion tons of crude steel was produced globally using blast furnace (BF) + basic oxygen furnace (BOF) and electric arc furnace (EAF) techniques. The United Kingdom produced 7.3 million tons of crude steel in 2018, 0.004% of global production. Scotland has produced less than 6000 tons of crude steel per year in the last three years. Global crude steel production is dominated by Asia, in particular China, which produced 928 million tons of crude steel alone in 2018.
In fact in 2018 there was £371.4m of imports of iron and steel into Scotland whereas their total iron and steel product exports stood at £313m, with £159m of that being exported to the EU.
Dr Russell Hall, from WMG, University of Warwick comments:
“The world’s population is set to increase from 7.7bn people in 2020 to 9.7bn in 2050, therefore the demand for steel will continue to increase, this provides an opportunity for Scotland to revive their steel industry and boost their income, however this will require coordinated government intervention and leadership into steel making capability, this could be in the form of direct investment, indirect support such as the reduction of energy costs or increase in skills provision for steelmaking.
“This could mean that Scotland could manufacture new steel types, expand current steel making capabilities, and reduce the operating costs for steel makers.
"If investment were to happen it could mean lower CO2 emissions, as it enables lower energy steel processing, it also enables the sector to work with existing supply chain and customer demands, and put state of the art equipment into Scottish steel manufacturing. In combination with Scotland’s renewable energy agenda it could see green steel production at the heart of Scotland’s manufacturing industry”.
25 OCTOBER 2021
NOTES TO EDITORS
High-res images available at: https://warwick.ac.uk/services/communications/medialibrary/images/september_2021/9652258404_7a8c8e9679_b.jpg
Caption: Forth Rail Bridge over the Firth of Forth in Scotland
Report available to view at: https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/sci/wmg/research/materials/wmg_scottish_steel_sector_report_final.pdf
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Media Relations Manager – Science
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Professor Davis was presented with the award in recognition of her exceptional contribution to the steel industry and its value chain.
The Hadfield Medal is widely recognised as a distinguished achievement in relation to metallurgical practice, process development, product development, metallurgical understanding or design engineering connected with iron and steel or associated industries.
Professor Davis holds the Royal Academy of Engineering / Tata Steel Chain in Low Energy Steel Processing at WMG. Her research focuses on the development of microstructure during processing and the relationships between microstructure and properties (both physical and mechanical) in steels.
Find out more about Professor Davis’s research here.
A smart, green and clean steel industry will come a giant step closer thanks to a new £35 million research network, announced today, which will see steelmakers and University experts work together on a seven-year research programme to transform the UK steel sector.
The network, called SUSTAIN, is to transform the whole steel supply chain, making it cleaner, greener and smarter, and more responsive to the fast-changing needs of customers. Its work will be concentrated on two areas:
· Zero waste iron and steelmaking, with the aim of making the industry carbon-neutral by 2040: Steel is already the world’s most recycled material, but the network will investigate new ways of making the industry’s processes and products even greener, such as harvesting untapped energy sources, capturing carbon emissions and re-processing societal and industrial waste streams.
· Smart steel processing: like any 21st century industry, steelmaking involves masses of data. SUSTAIN will develop new ways of acquiring and using this data to improve the steels produced as well as in new metallurgical processes, which can deliver bespoke high tech products.
Steel is the most widely-used structural material in the world. If a product isn’t made of steel it’s made using steel. Steel is at the heart of UK manufacturing sectors such as the car industry, construction, packaging and defence. It is an indispensable component of the UK’s future national infrastructure such as transport, communications and energy, and for high-tech 21st century industries, from energy-positive buildings to wind turbines and electric vehicles.
The work of SUSTAIN is projected to:
- Double UK steel manufacturers’ gross value added (GVA) by 2030
- Boost jobs in the industry to 35,000
- Increase productivity by 15%
SUSTAIN involves more than twenty partners across the UK steel industry: companies, trade bodies, research organisations and academic experts including WMG, University of Warwick. The network is being supported by £12.5M investment from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, as one of their Future Manufacturing Research Hubs, along with significant investment from the steel companies within the UK.
The announcement is a landmark as it is the first time that UK steel producers and representatives from the manufacturing sector have lined up behind a co-ordinated programme of research. It is also the largest ever single investment in steel research by a UK research council.
The plan is that SUSTAIN will be a seed from which much wider research and innovation will grow, drawing on expertise across UK academia and beyond.
Professor Claire Davis, from WMG, University of Warwick comments: “The UK has a rich tradition of research excellence and innovation in steel metallurgy. SUSTAIN will bring together leading research groups in this area, as well as introducing new expertise in big data and supply chain innovation, to work collaboratively with the UK industry.
The network will be able to tackle the large issues facing the steel industry, particularly in becoming low energy, carbon neutral, dynamic and responsive to customer needs. It is an exciting time to be working on steel as there are opportunities to contribute to making the planet a greener place.”
Dr Cameron Pleydell-Pearce, steel expert at Swansea University and SUSTAIN’s deputy director, said: “This news is a massive vote of confidence in the steel industry. It will support the industry’s vision for a responsible, innovative and creative future. We are already on the road to clean, green and smart steelmaking, but this is another giant step forward.
Research and innovation are the bedrock of a modern steel industry. This network represents almost the whole UK steel sector, with researchers and companies working together on an unprecedented scale. Here in Swansea we’re proud to lead it.”
Gareth Stace, UK Steel Director General, said: "This new boost of innovation funding into the sector is a vital piece of the puzzle to help deliver our vision of a cutting-edge, vibrant, and sustainable steel industry in the UK.
The future success of our sector rests on our ability to remain at the forefront of product and process innovation, delivering the new steel products demanded by our customers and society. This new hub will enable us to do just that.”
A new method of testing alloys - Rapid Alloy Prototyping, is 100 times faster than current methods, allowing new products to reach the market more quickly, thanks to £7 million of funding announced today for a new “virtual factory” designed by the Prosperity Partnership, including WMG at the University of Warwick.
This Prosperity Partnership – led by Swansea University and involving WMG at the University of Warwick, will implement a Rapid Alloy Prototyping (RAP) process, thanks to £7 million of funding announced today from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
Rapid Alloy Prototyping effectively means that much of the testing can be carried out in research labs and imaging suites - a virtual factory – rather than in an actual steel plant.
WMG (Warwick Manufacturing Group) at the University of Warwick has created a cutting-edge research, design and skills infrastructure zone in its Advanced Manufacturing and Materials Centre.
Its work is focused on supporting the development of new lightweight steel products as well as building an environment to develop the next generation of experts in this specialist field and can be accessed by SMEs as well as global businesses.
The three-year project has received £1 million of funding from the Government’s Local Growth Fund through the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) to buy key R&D equipment and a further £1 million from WMG which includes industry funding.
A partnership led by WMG at the University of Warwick, with the Institut Laue-Langevin (ILL), Tata Steel, and the Engineering and Physical Science Research Council (EPSRC) is using a stream of neutrons from ILL’s nuclear reactor in a new project to examine the safety critical welds in cars made with boron steel.
Press-hardened boron steel is an ultra high-strength steel used across a variety of industries, with a particularly important application in the automotive industry. A large proportion of car manufacturers use boron steel for structural components and anti-intrusion systems in automobiles, as it provides high strength and weight-saving potential, allowing for stronger yet lighter cars, with increased passenger safety.
In the automotive industry, a major joining method for boron steel components is “resistance spot welding”, with several thousand welds being made on a single car. Spot welding exposes the boron steel sheet directly underneath the electrodes” to very high temperatures, causing the metal to exceed melting temperature and then rapidly solidify upon cooling. This results in a heat-affected zone, where surrounding material contracts and its microstructures are altered.
Dr Alireza Rahnama has developed a new processing route which allows low density steel-based alloys to be produced with maximum strength, whilst remaining durable and flexible– something which has been largely impossible until now.
Two lightweight steels were tested - Fe-15Mn-10Al-0.8C-5Ni and Fe-15Mn-10Al-0.8C – for their potential to achieve maximum strength and ductility.
During production, two brittle phases can occur in these steels: kappa-carbide (k-carbide) and B2 intermetallic – which make the steels hard but limits their ductility, so they are difficult to roll.
Dr Auinger’s paper entitled ‘Grain boundary oxidation in iron-based alloys investigated by O enriched water vapour – The effect of mixed oxides in binary and ternary systems,’ has been awarded the TP Hoar Award 2016, by the Institute of Corrosion.
The award takes its name from Dr Hoar who was the first recipient of the UR Evans Award – the premier scientific award of the Institute of Corrosion. The TP Hoar Award essentially recognises the Best Paper in Corrosion Science amongst engineers and scientists in steels processing.
This award marks a very successful period for Dr Auinger. In September he also received recognition from the European Optical Society (EOS), scooping the prestigious Best Paper Prize 2014-2015.
Kateryna Hechu, the lead author of a research paper entitled ‘Real-Time Measurement of Contraction Behaviour of Peritectic Steels During Solidification,’ has, along with her co-authors been awarded the prestigious 2017 Jerry Silver Award by The Association of Iron and Steel Technology (AIST).
AIST represents an international network of steel industry knowledge and expertise. It is a non-profit organisation with 17,500 members from more than 70 countries.
The Jerry Silver award is presented to the author of a process metallurgy or product applications technical paper judged to be the ‘best of class’ by the AIST Metallurgy – Processing, Products and Applications Technology Committee. One of the authors must be a student.