As we approach the conclusion of the Steel Research Hub (SRH), it is being further reinforced that the SRH has provided an excellent vehicle for achieving significant, collaborative outcomes for both industry and university partners.
Strong collaborations and relationships have been forged in many of the SRH project teams, comprised of plant technologists, researchers, technical managers and Ph.D. candidates, post-doctoral fellows/academics. Together with the access provided to world-class research expertise and plant facilities, these teams have truly developed research and technical capabilities which would not have been independently realisable.
By way of examples, some team highlights and achievements from across the SRH’s three research programs are provided in this article.
Market-Focused Product Innovation
• Quenched and tempered wear-plate. Advanced microalloying and microstructural engineering strategies were used to develop new quenched and tempered plate products with significantly improved abrasion resistance, yet comparable toughness, workability, weldability and cost competitiveness to conventionally produced product. The key outcome was a newly developed steel which exhibited an improved strength-toughness-wear resistance relationship in comparison to the currently manufactured grade. The potential impact includes the provision of an attractive alternative to higher-end wear products in mining etc.
• Cold-formed steel building systems. Collaborating with BlueScope, Cox Architecture and Stockland, a large, multidisciplinary research team explored cold-formed steel (CFS) building systems for the mid-rise residential apartment sector in Australia. The team undertook detailed simulations to compare a reference building using alternative construction systems. The key outcome for the team was demonstration that load bearing CFS systems are technically feasible and have a strong value proposition in mid-rise residential apartment buildings in Australia. The potential impact includes a CFS-based construction solution that could have a significant influence on the construction of Australian residential apartments in the future.
• Cold-formed steel shear panels. New high-capacity, strap-braced shear panels were successfully developed and tested for Australian conditions. The key outcome was the development of an advanced numerical technique, which enabled accurate determination of not only the ultimate capacity, but also the displacement under load. This led to improved understanding of connection behaviour that facilitates the formulation of structural design equations and analysis procedures for CFS structures. The potential impact includes new shear panel designs with a capacity several times greater than those typically used in Australian construction systems.
• Cold formed steel information delivery manual. A new information delivery manual (IDM) for CFS software interoperability was developed. The key outcome of this project was the delivery of a manual which assists in reducing the time required for importing, interpreting and processing architectural design within a popular frame design software package and the quantification of components from the IFC for costing, scheduling and LCA use. The potential impact includes significant time and cost reductions in the transfer of design model data into frame design software and the automated input of design geometry and metadata that reduces the potential for human error in manual transcription.
Innovative Coating Technologies
• Coating bath fundamentals. Fundamental mechanisms were determined for Fe dissolution from steel strip into a molten alloy coating bath, as well as for key lifecycle stages of the intermetallic compounds (IMC). The key outcome was an enhanced fundamental basis for improving the quality of coated steel strip. The potential impact included new information on operational factors to control the generation and growth of IMC in the coating bath, in order to optimise the coating process.
• Air wiping jet technology. A combined numerical-experimental approach across two institutions clarified critical properties of the coating alloy in the liquid state and during solidification, as well as quantifying the behaviour of the metallic alloy coating and its sensitivity to fluctuations in the air wiping jet flow. One of the key results showed exceedingly strong frequency dependence in the degree of coating thickness variation. Through this low-cost, quick and flexible numerical approach, a general frequency dependence of the coating was identified.
• In-situ corrosion measurement. A novel Electrochemical Noise Measurement technique was developed that allowed simulation of the wet stack environment for coated steel sheets. The resultant quantitative electrochemical data permits study of corrosion mechanisms and rates. The potential impact includes novel approaches for manipulating the surface chemistry for improved interaction between the metal surface and subsequent protective layers.
Sustainable Steel Manufacturing
• Use of non-traditional ferrous materials for ironmaking. A small-scale sintering pot facility was established for the examination of sintering performance of iron ores and other non-traditional ferrous materials. In parallel, a tablet test was developed to examine the fundamental interaction between iron ore phases and fluxes. The key outcome was new fundamental understanding of the evolution of the mineral phases during sintering. The potential impact includes application of this knowledge for optimising sinter blend performance when using cost-effective Australian iron ores.
• Basic oxygen steelmaking with higher titanium levels. The effects of using low-cost ironsands with higher Ti content on the physical properties of BOS slag and the chemistry of phosphorous removal from steel to slag were established using high temperature experimentation and advanced sensing methods. The key outcome was a new P prediction model developed for industry, which was implemented at Port Kembla Steelworks with significant financial savings. The impact includes utilising the thermodynamic and kinetic data in two plant operational models, one that accurately predicts the final P composition enabling a reduction in P reblows, and the other that optimises flux usage, plant practices and incoming P loads, reducing the overall cost of converting iron ores into steel.
• Higher productivity blast furnaces. High temperature experimentation to quantify the wettability and flowability of molten slag and hot metal under realistic blast furnace (BF) conditions, was combined with advanced numerical modelling to investigate the interactions of different material phases under conditions approaching flooding in the blast furnace lower zone. The potential impact includes using this knowledge to design furnace operations to increase productivity, through selection of raw materials of optimal quality.
• Obtaining value from steel plant by-products. Selected steel plant by-products were characterised to develop, inform and assess recovery strategies and specific project plans to realize value from the by-products, with a focus on sustainable recovery of iron and flux units. The impact includes findings in relation to the consistency and reactivity of BOS filter cake. These helped inform practices for the dewatering of the BOS dust slurry, and the management of hot BOS filter cake to enhance self-sintering in stockpiles.