About Our Research
Steel is an extremely important material that is essential to our modern way of life, being crucial for economic growth as it is a material that is constantly being improved to meet new market demands. New alloys are often designed to meet specific property requirements in a component. This requires knowledge of the composition, processing and microstructure. Traditional ways of developing new alloys were based on understanding of empirical relationships and modelling. The process of developing a new alloy is based on its potential physical properties. Many process issues could occur when moving from laboratory to an industrial scale. With the use of new software such as Thermo-Calc ® and MATLAB ® codes, there can be a more systematic approach for materials design to predict phase stability as a function of chemistry and temperature.
The RAP project uses a combination of different techniques such as casting, rolling, heat treatment and characterisation techniques (SEM/EDS, tensile, hardness) to analyse an alloy’s properties as a function of chemical and thermomechanical parameters. Processing studies will be conducted on a refined number of alloy compositions through scale up facilities before the possibility of steel plant trials. The alloys can either come from products that have already been produced by plant or an alloy with the desired elements can be produced in the laboratory. As there is also a huge focus on recycling and sustainability, there can be the option to increase scrap content and to assess impurities of copper, tin and nickel if the steel industry approached net-zero by moving towards greater amounts of EAF steel production.
The process for RAP consists of a 3D cast which is hot/cold rolled or annealed which is then further analysed through characterisation techniques or thermomechanical properties. Characterisation of the steel can be done through steel droplet simulation, Gleeble tests, high temperature wetting. Modelling simulations can be done through Micress to study grain growths and FactSage for slag/metal interactions. Other software such as Deform and Thermocalc can also be used to aid in understanding the phase transformations during heat treatment. Using a combination of these techniques, selected compositions of 10 kg melts can have detailed characterisation and testing carried out. Based on this, pilot scale trials can be arranged and if this is a success, factory trials can be considered and tried.
RAP has many benefits such as being able to optimise processing in existing steel grades as well as developing new products rapidly with reduced expense and derisking the process. It can allow a steel manufacturer to produce a more consistent product with less rework in the process routes as well as improving desirable qualities in the steel by changing the processing that can carefully control the microstructure with reduced process costs.