A Swansea University spinoff has developed a new laser technology to monitor the temperature and chemical composition of molten steel.
Kubal-Wraith Ltd’s new process could help steel plants save up to $6 million a year. It has also won the $33.500 Materials Science Venture Prize awarded by The Worshipful Company of Armourers and Brasiers.
The general trend is to halt the steel production process while disposable probes are immersed into the molten metal to measure temperature and take samples.
Needless to say, the monitoring process is time-consuming and counter-productive as it requires expensive probes.
In contrast, the new technology uses lasers projected into the molten furnace which monitor the contents continually.
Moreover, there is no need for disposable probes and – crucially – production does not need to be stopped.
“Our new technology allows a laser beam to be projected into a molten furnace through a channel called a tuyère in the furnace wall. We exploit the latest gas injection techniques to protect the data channel,” said Dr Szymon Kubal of Tata Steel, research fellow at Swansea University.
“One difficulty was testing our innovations in an operational steel plant under production conditions. However, by working with Tata Steel UK we are able to undertake full-scale trials.”
According to the university, the technology can also be applied to other metals such as aluminium, copper and nickel.
The World Steel Association data indicates there are more than 1000 molten metal furnaces worldwide, which could see benefits in cost and productivity by using the new method of monitoring.
Image courtesy and content: Darren Parkin-Business Vision/Swansea University