MIT forges greener path to iron production

Sep 12, 2006

MIT engineers have demonstrated an eco-friendly way to make iron that eliminates the greenhouse gases usually associated with its production.

The American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) announced recently that the team, led by Donald R. Sadoway of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, has shown the technical viability of producing iron by molten oxide electrolysis (MOE).

"What sets molten oxide electrolysis apart from other metal-producing technologies is that it is totally carbon-free and hence generates no carbon dioxide gases -- only oxygen," said Lawrence W. Kavanagh, AISI vice president of manufacturing and technology.

The work was funded by the AISI/Department of Energy Technology Roadmap Program (TRP). The TRP goal is to increase the competitiveness of the U.S. steel industry while saving energy and enhancing the environment. According to the AISI, the MIT work "marks one of TRP's breakthrough projects toward meeting that goal."

Unlike other iron-making processes, MOE works by passing an electric current through a liquid solution of iron oxide. The iron oxide then breaks down into liquid iron and oxygen gas, allowing oxygen to be the main byproduct of the process.

Electrolysis itself is nothing new -- all of the world's aluminum is produced this way. And that is one advantage of the new process: It is based on a technology that metallurgists are already familiar with. Unlike aluminum smelting, however, MOE is carbon-free.

"What's different this time is that we have the resources to take the time to unravel the underlying basic science," said Sadoway, the John F. Elliott Professor of Materials Chemistry. "No one has ever studied the fundamental electrochemistry of a process operating at 1600ÂșC. We're doing voltammetry at white heat!"

The result? "I now can confirm that in molten oxide electrolysis we'll see iron productivities at least five times that of aluminum, maybe as high as 10 times. This changes everything when it comes to assessing technical viability at the industrial scale."

MIT will continue further experiments to determine how to increase the rate of iron production and to discover new materials capable of extending the life of certain reactor components to industrially practical limits. This work will set the stage for construction of a pilot-scale cell to further validate the viability of the MOE process and identify scale-up parameters.

Source: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Explore further: US moves step closer to commercial drone use

Related Stories

How climate science denial affects the scientific community

2 hours ago

Climate change denial in public discourse may encourage climate scientists to over-emphasise scientific uncertainty and is also affecting how they themselves speak - and perhaps even think - about their own research, a new ...

Winter proves tough on deer, states weigh hunting limits

8 hours ago

Wildlife regulators in states where deer hunting is a way of life and an important tourism draw are implementing or considering deep cuts to hunting permits after a tough winter killed off many of the animals.

Recommended for you

An airflow model to reduce time on the tarmac

14 hours ago

Plans for summer holidays are already taking shape. But before jetting off for some fun in the sun, many travellers will have to cope with long delays on the airport runway.

Sensor detects spoilage of food

18 hours ago

VTT has developed a sensor that detects ethanol in the headspace of a food package. Ethanol is formed as a result of food spoilage. The sensor signal is wirelessly readable, for instance, by a mobile phone. VTT Technical ...

Chest strap heart rate monitor

May 05, 2015

A team of Empa scientists has, together with industrial partners, developed a novel chest strap device for the long-term monitoring of patients with heart and circulatory problems. What is special about the ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.