Steelsuppliers work hard to be as eco-friendly as possible, but anybody who’s seen ablast furnace in full flow will know that the manufacture of steel is anenergy-intensive process.
However,scientists working on the possibility of putting man permanently on the moonhave accidentally discovered a carbon-neutral way to make steel – and ironitself is at the core of the process.
DonaldSadoway, a professor of materials chemistry at Massachusetts Institute ofTechnology, was awarded a NASA grant to investigate ways of creating oxygen onthe moon.
What hediscovered was a way to release the oxygen from iron oxide – thought to beabundant on the lunar surface – while producing steel as a by-product.
His originalmethod used an iridium anode, but he has since found that an alloy of iron andchromium can work too, as it can conduct electricity while withstanding theheat of being inserted into a vat of molten metal.
The processis economical, carbon-free, and creates steel with very high purity levels -making it potentially a significant possibility for steel suppliers to use inthe years to come to serve market demand while continuing the commitment toeco-friendly operations.