Real-time In-line Microstructural Engineering (RIME)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Manchester
Department Name: Electrical and Electronic Engineering


Steel continues to be the most used material in the world by value and play an essential role in all aspects of society, from construction to transport, energy generation to food production. The long-term sustainability of UK steel making requires lower energy production and the development of high value steel products. The ability to measure the microstructure of steel in a non-contact, non-destructive fashion can lead to dramatic improvement in the understanding of the material and its behaviour during processing and in-service. Improved control during processing will increase efficiency in production of complex steel microstructures and allow new generation alloys to be made. Through our previous EPSRC and industry funded research we have created a new electromagnetic (EM) measurement system, EMspecTM, that can monitor the microstructure of strip steel during hot processing. This system is now providing information related to the condition (transformed phase fraction) of the microstructure over 100% of the strip length. The scene is now set to make the next major step forward with the information that new in-line microstructure measurement systems can offer - proposed real-time in-line microstructural engineering, or 'RIME' technology.
Our ambition is to enable real-time microstructure engineering during processing via dynamic control of cooling strategies or heat treatment using EM sensor feedback, in particular to engineer microstructures that were previously either impossible to achieve in full scale production or could not be reliably achieved. This will require detailed knowledge of the full temperature - magnetic - microstructure parameter space and sensors that are capable of operating in elevated temperature environments (such as heat treatment facilities), which are not currently available outside the laboratory. In addition application to a wide range of product lines, from strip to plate or sections requires integration of through thickness cooling models and EM signal-depth interpretation all mapped for varying temperature and phase fraction. In this project we will develop new sensors that can operate at high temperature; both laboratory systems to determine full magnetic properties with temperature for model and commercial steels, essential information that is currently unavailable in the literature, and robust deployable sensors for trials in industrial conditions; and systems designed to interrogate for through thickness data. We will develop a demonstration facility, consisting of a furnace, run out table with cooling sprays and EMspecTM system, to allow dynamic feedback control of cooling schedules from EM sensor signals to engineer specific microstructures. Alongside the hardware and demonstration activities we will also develop modelling capabilities, both for sensor design and signal interpretation: our current models are used to relate sensor signals to microstructure (phase fraction and grain size at room temperature) with incorporation of temperature effects planned in this project. A number of case studies have been identified to trial the new technologies including advanced high strength strip steels (AHSS) for light-weighting of vehicles, high strength - high toughness pipeline steels for demanding environments, high strength, more uniform, constructional steels and tailoring microstructure in rod.


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Huang R (2020) Thickness measurement of metallic plates with finite planar dimension using eddy current method in IEEE Transactions on Instrumentation and Measurement

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Lu M (2021) Measuring Lift-Off Distance and Electromagnetic Property of Metal Using Dual-Frequency Linearity Feature in IEEE Transactions on Instrumentation and Measurement

Description This research has findings in two areas; one is related to hot processing of steel and the other is related to room temperature inspection of high value creep resistance steels in the power industry.

In the first area we have worked with our academic partners at Warwick and industrial partners at Tata Steel and Primetals Technologies to show that transformation can be reliably monitored by our EMspec sensors on-line and in the harsh operating conditions of steel production plant. This was recently reported in Insight by our colleagues at Tata Steel, (

In the second area, we have tested a new generation of sensor head for monitoring creep degradation on power station steels and the results so far show clear trends that suggest the technology could be deployed to inspect steel components during outages to supplement replication.
Exploitation Route Commercialization or use of new sensing technology to improve steel production or ease inspection of plant.
Sectors Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Electronics,Energy,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology

Description The early work on this project has helped our industrial partners to develop a high temperature (880 degC) sensor which we are currently testing for continual operation in an annealing furnace for strip steel. In addition, we have been working with Primetals Technology, to develop algorithms to help invert the data from electromagnetic transformation sensors that have been licensed to the company.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Electronics,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology
Impact Types Economic

Description Electromagnetic Testing for the Detection of Type IV Weld Damage in Grade 91 Reactor Vessels
Amount £17,000 (GBP)
Funding ID ETD Proposal No: 1598-tp-prop17-v2 
Organisation European Technology Development (ETD Consulting) 
Sector Private
Country United Kingdom
Start 07/2018 
End 07/2019
Description Electromagnetic Testing for the Detection of Type IV Weld Damage in Grade 91 Reactor Vessels Phase II
Amount £39,600 (GBP)
Funding ID ETD Proposal No: 1682-tp-prop19 
Organisation European Technology Development (ETD Consulting) 
Sector Private
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2019 
End 12/2020
Description Magnetic methods for microstructure characterisation
Amount $18,000 (USD)
Funding ID Agreement number 10010570 
Organisation Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United States
Start 07/2019 
End 12/2020
Description Online Microstructure Analytics
Amount € 3,777,969 (EUR)
Funding ID 847296 - OMA - RFCS-2018 
Organisation European Commission 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 07/2019 
End 12/2022
Description ETD - MPA tests 
Organisation European Technology Development (ETD Consulting)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Evaluation of new electromagnetic micro structure sensors on aged P91 and P92 steel pipes at MPA in Stuttgart.
Collaborator Contribution Access to test facilities and the results from other partner's test methods during the tests
Impact Results to demonstrate the potential feasibility of the new electromagnetic sensor technology developed during ASAP. The collaboration started during the ASAP project and developed during RIME resulting in a series of site tests and future iterations of the sensor technology.
Start Year 2015