A Novel Electropulse-based Clean Steel Green Processing Method

Lead Research Organisation: Imperial College London
Department Name: Materials


Clean steels are fundamental materials for heavy industry and advanced equipments. The requirement for the cleanliness of steels has increased drastically due to the development high speed transportation and smart devises. The conventional clean steel processing technologies cannot meet the new requirement and are also energy intensive. The proposal will develop a novel processing method for the production of super clean steel with significantly reduced energy cost.

Planned Impact

This project will increase the competiveness of UK steelmaking companies by providing a novel processing technology for the production of super clean steels at lower energy cost. The machinery and equipment industries will benefit from the availability of super clean steels to support the production of higher performance or low dimensional steel components. Other metal and metal production companies can apply the processing method for improvement of mechanical properties of their components. The end users will benefit from the more reliable and safer transportations whose parts, for examples high speed train wheels and airplane engine shafts, will be made by super clean steels. The environments will be benefited from lower energy cost, lower energy-related CO2 emission and lower waste production. The project will also improve our scientific understanding of electropulse-materials interaction.

Expected impact of the project

Economic, social and environmental impacts

13 million metric tonnes of steels are produced in the UK each year with an annual turnover of more than £4 billion and which provides more than 22,000 jobs. The electropulsing technique to be developed in this proposal will improve the production of super clean steels. These have high product value and are in great demand in the world market. The global steel production is over 1.3 billion metric tonnes per annum. There is huge potential for UK steel industry to expand when the leading technology is facilitated. Cleanliness is one of the most important parameters when assessing steel quality. This research will increase the competiveness of the UK steel industry.

Machinery and equipment industries rely on clean steels to fabricate higher-quality, higher-strength and superior-performance parts such as ball bearings, shafts, tyre cords and tools. Improved steel cleanliness will result in the production of improved-performance machines and components. Machinery and equipment industries produce 8.5% of total UK manufacturing value. This project will also benefit UK heavy industry.

It is expected that the electropulsing technique can also help to handle inclusions in other metal production industries. The basic metals and metal products, including steelmaking, constitute 11 % of the total UK manufacturing value.

The end user will be benefited from the availability of a more reliable and safer transportation. It is essential that components in "life threatening applications" (e.g. wheels for high speed trains and aero-engine components) should be of the very highest cleanliness and contain no inclusions. These super clean alloys and steels will also provide longer service life and constructive materials of higher quality. Most cracks in constructive materials are initiated at the sites of inclusions.

Steel production is responsible for ca. 4% of the world CO2 emissions, in which 80% of emissions are energy related. The proposed electropulsing technique will replace the incessant electric current used in electromagnetic stirring of conventional clean steel processing with short duration electric pulses. This will result in more than 90% electric energy used in cleanness operations. Also, electropulsing accelerates phase separation and reduces the holding time for steels at 1800 K for the removal of inclusions which will result in significant energy savings for steelmaking.

Further development of electropulsing technology will improve metal recycling, through the production of high grade steels from scrap. With existing technology, only low grade steel can be produced from scrap due to the problems associated with separation of deleterious elements and phases.


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Related Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Award Value
EP/J011460/1 14/10/2012 01/01/2015 £295,990
EP/J011460/2 Transfer EP/J011460/1 05/01/2015 04/11/2015 £85,222
Description We have proved the proposed assumption and successfully moves MnS, Al2O3 and several other inclusions from liquid steel
Exploitation Route We are working together with TATA Steel to put forward the findings.
Sectors Energy,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology

Description The samples have been examined by TATA Steel technology centre. It has passed stage one piolot plant trial and entered into stage two
Sector Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology
Impact Types Economic

Description Newton Advanced Fellowship
Amount £111,000 (GBP)
Funding ID NA150320 
Organisation The Royal Society 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2016 
End 02/2019
Description Optimisation of Local Heat Transfer in the CC Mould for Casting Challenging and Innovative Steel - OPTILOCALHT
Amount € 2,289,415 (EUR)
Funding ID 847269 
Organisation European Commission 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 07/2019 
End 06/2023
Title computational electric current metallurgy 
Description A coputational code package for calculation of electric current distribution in multiphase materials has been developed. This has been used in a number of new projects. 
Type Of Material Model of mechanisms or symptoms - in vitro 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact This is a generic tool to predict the current distribution and structural transformation 
Title electromagnetic data 
Description Significant amount of data about the electrical and magnetic properties of various materials has been collected. This has been used in another project funded by Materials Aging Institute at France. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The database helped to secure another research grant from MAI-SN at France. The total funding for the new proposal is over £254k. 
Description Study of the Electropulse-based Superclean Steel Green Processing Method 
Organisation Central European University
Department Center for Steel Research
Country China 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We provided electropulsing-assisted inclusion removal technology
Collaborator Contribution Central South University provided the advanced mold simulator technology
Impact We have secured Newton Advanced Fellowship
Start Year 2015
Title computational electric current metallurgy 
Description A software to calculate electric current metallurgy has been developed 
IP Reference  
Protection Copyrighted (e.g. software)
Year Protection Granted
Licensed No
Impact This has been implemented in prediction of several experiments, and formed the bases for a number of journal papers.
Title Code package for electropulsing processing 
Description This is being developed. It includes two parts. The first is to predict the kinetic force generated by the electropulsing. Another is to implement the force in smoothed particle hydrodynamic model to predict the inclusion moving trajectory. 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2016 
Impact A PhD student, Miss Zuochao, is using this softwere for her PhD thesis. Some results were used in published journal papers and new proposals. 
Description Clean Steel 9 conference (Budapest) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact We made presentation to over 200 delegates from research institutes and industries. Several steelmaking industries expressed their interests in our work. TATA Steel at Holland has thereafter asked Materials Processing Institute at UK to work with me to try the results in large scale application. The funding is under discussion in TATA World Expert Consortium.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
Description Industrial visit (MBDA) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact People from two UK industries and 4 UK universities had this meeting. There were 6 presentations followed by discussion of how to form a more wide group to push forward the research and application of using electropulsing in materials processing
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015