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Engineer Makes Steel from Waste

Posted on 29 Mar 2012

An Indian born engineer currently working in Australia has developed an innovative technology which uses waste rubber and plastic to make steel.

Dr Veena Sahajwalla, director of Sustainable Materials Research and Technology at the University of New South Wales, says the new technology also lowers the cost of energy consumption in steel making.

“We have created the ability to recycle waste plastics and waste rubber for making steel”, Sahajwalla says.

“In the process itself, we have actually shown that the steel making process can actually be made more efficient and we’ve lowered the cost of electricity consumption. So it’s a big win for both recycling waste materials and also from energy consumption in the steel making process.”

According to a video presentation from the university, the new technology involves using items such as plastic shopping bags and drink bottles to derive carbon, an essential element in electronic arc furnace steel making. The items are first reduced to granulated plastic, the granules from which are subsequently injected into the furnace – a process which accesses carbon.

The presentation says the process has the added benefit of adding in heat, which ultimately lowers energy usage and costs.

The technology has been sub-licensed to One-Steel, an Australian manufacturer of steel products which operates in more than 15 countries.

Sahajwalla is excited, both about the technology itself and the licensing arrangement.

“What a researcher feels when you’ve actually gone off and come up with an idea, tried it, tested it, proven all the theories and everything works beautifully in the lab – that’s an amazing achievement.

“But the ultimate icing on the cake is when you’ve got an industry which is so keen to take it on board and is as excited as you are to in fact implement it and make it happen.”

OneSteel’s Paul O’Kane, Technical Manager of Steelmaking700 at the company, shares Sahajwalla’s enthusiasm.

“Steelmakers are looking to reduce cost and improve productivity and this is one way they can do it which is environmentally friendly”, he says.

“It’s a no-brainer”.


Image courtesy of University of New South Wales.


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