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.
Steel production in the UK could be cheaper and more energy-efficient in the future, thanks to research at WMG, University of Warwick.
The ASSURE2 project, led by Professor Claire Davis, is looking to significantly cut steel production costs, and reduce energy consumption by over 300%, through exploring the use of belt casting technology.
Belt casting is a significantly lower energy production route compared to traditional continuous casting techniques, as belt casting is a near net shape casting process, producing strip that needs minimal hot deformation to achieve the required product thickness.
It is also very efficient because it can minimise or eliminate any reheating processes, which reduces overall costs.
Furthermore, there are certain advanced high strength strip (AHSS) steel grades which are commercially attractive but cannot be produced using conventional casting techniques - which could be manufactured using belt casting.
WMG, at the University of Warwick, will be building on its reputation in materials research, as it is set to be a hub for the development and application of advanced lightweight metals, thanks to a £1m Growth Deal award from the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP).
The award will create a local network of knowledge, equipment and skills – supporting WMG to share its expertise on steels and other advanced materials with companies in the CWLEP area, enabling them to exploit emerging technologies and new materials grades. In particular, those based on metallic materials and their effective forming and joining, often in combination with other materials.
The deal will fund new capital equipment, to be in WMG’s Advanced Steels Research Centre, based in the Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Centre, which combined with WMG’s leading R&D capabilities will give local companies, in particular SMEs, the ability to introduce new market-leading products, improve the performance of existing products and introduce weight and/or cost saving in products.
Dr Auinger, who co-wrote the report and has been described as the main ‘driving force’ behind it, said: “The EOS is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, which makes this award extra special. It was a great surprise, and I feel totally honoured to receive such acclaim.”
The search for stable materials during fast temperature changes or thermal cycling conditions is one of the biggest challenges in modern alloy design. Dr Auinger conducted his research over a six month period with colleagues from Germany at the Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung in Düsseldorf and SENTECH Instruments in Berlin.