The Materials Processing Institute www.mpiuk.com has been awarded £22m by UK chancellor Rishi Sunak to deliver a five-year research and innovation programme to help facilitate transforming the steel and metals sector towards a more efficient, low carbon future. This will support a range of projects in collaboration with research and industrial partners.
Acknowledged by the government as the UK’s innovation centre for steel and metals, the Teesside-based Institute will focus on increasing productivity and transforming environmental sustainability.
Carrying out research into energy reduction using existing processes together with innovation into low carbon, electric and hydrogen based steelmaking, scrap recycling and new processes to allow steel to transition towards a sustainable, green industry.
One particular challenge concerns ways to address the control of nitrogen in electric steelmaking. This is one of the key barriers to making the highest quality grades via the lower energy scrap based melting route.
The development and commercialisation of technologies in SME supply chains, such as robotics and artificial intelligence, to increase productivity and product capability.
A second key theme relates to the drive towards zero waste and a circular economy. Programmes are in place to find new and higher value uses for industry waste and to explore the synergies between different industry sectors for waste re-use. Examples include examination of the feasibility of modification of mineral phases present in steel slags to permit higher value use in the cement, ceramics and glass sector and use of glass sector waste in steel slags and refinement of graphite from process waste dust for higher value electric sector uses.
In the recycling field interests include development of improved technologies for the extraction and recycling of both bulk metals like steel, aluminium and copper, and rare metals, such as lithium and cobalt – to support a sustainable, secure and ethical supply chain.
These themes are underpinned by the Institute’s capability in developments for process measurement and intelligent process control including digital technologies and artificial intelligence.
This has included development of sensors and measuring systems for use in harsh environments combined with optimisation of process control. One current project is aiming to improve yield by improved control based intelligent measurement of product shape evolution during processing.
In addition, the programme will provide particular support working closely with SMEs and process industry within its local region.
A further theme is the need to support development of technical knowledge and capability in the metals sector by developing training materials. As well as internal initiatives, the Institute is working with PROMETIA and Metnet* partners Eramet and Elkem in the SPYRO project (supported by EIT Raw Materials) towards addressing the future needs of technologists in pyrometallurgy.
The Institute, a not-for-profit organisation, has worked with global steel and materials industries, to deliver cutting edge research and innovation in advanced materials, low carbon energy, the circular economy and digital technologies.
Chris McDonald, chief executive officer of the Materials Processing Institute said:
“Innovation is vital to improve productivity and enables us to meet carbon reduction targets to protect our planet for generations to come. This investment recognises the world leading expertise at the Institute to support industry and environmental sustainability.”
For further information, visit the Materials Processing Institute website: www.mpiuk.com
*The METNET network consists of several pilot plants in Europe, covering many different aspects of mineral processing, metallurgy and production of metals. Through Metnet the customers have access to a network of knowledge that can work cross-sectorial and innovatively by combining the expertise of all members. You can find more about the METNET network here.