Science

Laser used for quicker and cheaper monitoring of molten steel

Laser used for quicker and che...
Lead scientist Dr. Szymon Kubal, at the Tata Steel Port Talbot steelworks
Lead scientist Dr. Szymon Kubal, at the Tata Steel Port Talbot steelworks
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Lead scientist Dr. Szymon Kubal, at the Tata Steel Port Talbot steelworks
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Lead scientist Dr. Szymon Kubal, at the Tata Steel Port Talbot steelworks

Ordinarily, steel plants have to regularly halt production while a disposable probe gets lowered into the molten steel, measuring its temperature and collecting samples for chemical analysis. That may not be the case for much longer, though, thanks to a new laser-based inspection system.

The current probe-based system costs steel producers money, both in terms of lost production time and the cost of the probes themselves. Developed at Britain's Swansea University by a team led by Dr. Szymon Kubal, the laser system has neither of those drawbacks.

It involves projecting a laser beam into a steel furnace and onto the surface of the molten steel within, via a channel called a tuyère in the furnace wall. This is done while production is still in progress, with gas being continuously injected into the tuyère in order to keep the channel clear. Utilizing a partially-proprietary process, the system is able to measure the temperature and chemical composition of the steel.

"The method is spectrometry-based and records data from the light emitted by the steel either passively (for temperature) or after excitation with the laser source (for composition)," team member Dr. Cameron Pleydell-Pearce explains to us.

The technology has been tested at the Tata Steel Port Talbot steelworks, and is now being commercialized by Swansea spinoff company Kubal-Wraith Ltd. It can reportedly also be used to monitor the production of metals such as aluminium, copper and nickel.

Source: Swansea University

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