Wastes including plastic and coffee grounds now join rubber tyres as alternative sources of coke and coal as previously vital ingredients as carbon sources for steel making, a research project undertaken at Newcastle steel manufacturer Molycop has shown.
Researchers working on the University of NSW Green Steel technology project demonstrated that the waste materials can provide the element hydrogen, which vastly improves the efficiency and energy required for the manufacturing process.
UNSW SMaRT Centre Director Professor Veena Sahajwalla said the research showed that high-quality steel products could be produced from a wide range of waste materials.
"The metal that gets produced doesn't have any memory of whether the parent material that went in was coal or coffee," Ms Sahajwalla said.
"We've proven that it does the job at a comparable level, so we're going to be at least sitting at an equivalent performance.
Australian steel makers are leading the world in green steel manufacturing research and technology.
"The ideal would be if we completely eliminate the coke. If you have a combination of materials, you get a better outcome because you're able to fine tune and customise green steel and take the kinds of materials that do the best job," Professor Sahajwalla.
"This is not a waste, it's a really useful resource. It's going to be an interesting shift towards valuing our waste resources and thinking about those innovative supply chains."
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