Development of Refractory Coatings to support the Decarbonisation of the Steelmaking Process

Lead Research Organisation: Swansea University
Department Name: College of Engineering


In terms of global energy demand, according to the international energy authority, of the heating component 66% is industrial heat. This represents a staggering 20% of total demand. All of these processes utilise refractory [1] materials to contain and manage that heat. Steelmaking is no different. In fact, an integrated steel plant produces enough waste heat in a year to heat 500,000 homes. As such, to achieve net zero and solve the current energy crisis we must enhance industrial thermal efficiency through revolutionary approaches to the design and use of these refractory insulation materials. This is the primary goal and impact of this project.

As TATA Steel moves towards its ambition of carbon neutral steelmaking by 2050 and a reduction of CO2 emissions of 30% in the UK by 2030[2], there is a need to transform the way sustainable steel is produced. Liquid Iron & Steel are both transported and processed in refractory coated vessels, examples being torpedoes, ladles, BOS (Basic Oxygen Steelmaking) vessels, tundishes, etc. At each process step, temperature loss occurs. The temperature deficit is addressed either through chemical heating processes, or adjustments made to scrap and alloy inputs to manage the final temperature. All of these steps increase energy requirements, have a resultant impact on the CO2 emissions and overall conversion cost of the final steel product; single degree changes across the operation can save hundreds of thousands of pounds per year.

Project aims:
The aim of the project is to study the Refractory coating systems, to both assess and reduce the energy losses and CO2 emissions of the steelmaking process. This will involve benchmarking, design studies, data analytics, thermal / finite element modelling, laboratory & plant scale trials and development of measurement systems (both contact & non-contact).

It will also involve advanced refractory testing and collaboration with industrial, plant and research institutions will be required as it may provide wider opportunities to share learnings for the benefit of the global steel industry.

[1] Refractory materials are designed to be resistant to decomposition by heat, pressure and chemicals, and to retain their mechanical properties at temperatures encountered in the modern manufacturing environment. The purpose of a refractory material is to contain heat whilst simultaneously protecting processing equipment. Typically, these materials are used as coatings for boilers, furnaces, incinerators etc and have multiple applications in the steel making process.

[2] Tata Steel in Europe Sustainability Report 2019/2020 ( and

Planned Impact

The CDT will produce 50 graduates with doctoral level knowledge and research skills focussed on the development and manufacture of functional industrial coatings. Key impact areas are:

- The development of new products and processes to address real scientific challenges existing in industry and to transfer this knowledge into partnering companies. The CDT will enable rapid knowledge transfer between academia and industry due to the co-created projects and co-supervision.
- The creation of knowledge sharing network for partner companies created by the environment of the CDT.
- On average 2-3 publications per RE. Publications in high impact factor journals. The scientific scope of the CDT comprises a mixture of interdisciplinary areas and as such a breadth of knowledge can be generated through the CDT. Examples would include Photovoltaic coatings - Journal of Materials Chemistry A (IF 8.867) and Anti-corrosion Coatings - Corrosion Science (IF 5.245), Progress in Organic Coatings (IF 2.903)
- REs will disseminate knowledge at leading conferences e.g. Materials Research Society (MRS), Meetings of the Electrochemical Society, and through trade associations and Institutes representing the coatings sector.
- A bespoke training package on the formulation, function, use, degradation and end of life that will embed the latest research and will be available to industry partners for employees to attend as CPD and for other PGRs demonstrating added value from the CDT environment.

Wealth Creation
- Value added products and processes created through the CDT will generate benefits for Industrial partners and supply chains helping to build a productive nation.
- Employment of graduates into industry will transfer their knowledge and skills into businesses enabling innovation within these companies.
- Swansea University will support potential spin out companies where appropriate through its dedicated EU funded commercialisation project, Agor IP.

Environment and society
- Functionalised surfaces can potentially improve human health through anti-microbial surfaces for health care infrastructure and treatment of water using photocatalytic coatings.
- Functionalised energy generation coatings will contribute towards national strategies regarding clean and secure energy.
- Responsible research and innovation is an overarching theme of the CDT with materials sustainability, ethics, energy and end of life considered throughout the development of new coatings and processes. Thus, REs will be trained to approach all future problems with this mind set.
- Outreach is a critical element of the training programme (for example, a module delivered by the Ri on public engagement) and our REs will have skills that enable the dissemination of their knowledge to wide audiences thus generating interest in science and engineering and the benefits that investments can bring.

- Highly employable doctoral gradates with a holistic knowledge of functional coatings manufacture who can make an immediate impact in industry or academia.
- The REs will have transferable skills that are pertinent across multiple sectors.
- The CDT will develop ethically aware engineers with sustainability embed throughout their training
- The promotion of equality, diversity and inclusivity within our cohorts through CDT and University wide initiatives.
- The development of alumni networks to grow new opportunities for our CDT and provide REs with mentors.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/S02252X/1 01/10/2019 31/03/2028
2746015 Studentship EP/S02252X/1 01/10/2022 30/09/2026 Patrick Mayne