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29th April 2013 Last updated: 29th April 2013

Space lasers used to reduce emissions

TTC

Laser based technologies developed to assist the landing of Mars Rovers could soon be used to help reduce CO2 and waste in Tata Steel making plants.

This cutting-edge technology will now be tested in the heart of a Tata Steel continuous casting plant.

As part of a collaborative research and development programme funded by the UK Technology Strategy Board, called the HTP-Control Project, Tata Steel is working with IS Instruments Ltd, University College London – Mullard Science Space Laboratory (MSSL) and the Centre for Process Innovation, Thermal Technologies Centre (CPI) to develop this ground-breaking technology.

If the tests are successful, the laser technology will help reduce wastage by spotting micro surface imperfections when steel is still at around 1,000°C.

Traditional surface testing means steel is allowed to cool before manually checking by a trained operator if defects are found the material is diverted for ‘surface rectification’ using more energy and generating more emissions.

“The success of the project for Tata Steel would be the reduction of waste by improving and enhancing defect management. By automatically spotting surface defects material can be more efficiently routed to the next stages of processing. This saves costs of storage space and material movements, manual inspection, and also further energy and CO2 savings”, said Andrew Smith Knowledge Group Leader, Tata Steel R&D, Steel making and casting department, Teesside Technology Centre

The development and application of innovative technologies for on-line detection of defects in products is becoming a key competitive factor in the steel industry.

The HTP‐Control Project is an industry focussed, collaborative R&D programme designed to address and identify savings associated with eliminating rework and waste materials associated with high grade steel manufacture in the UK.

Using the collective expertise of the consortium partners, the project will develop the innovative non‐destructive laser based system to measure continuous “as cast” steel at temperatures around 1,000°C for the detection and identification of process defects.

A prototype unit will be developed for installation and trial on an actual casting plant, operated by Tata Steel, to optimise the technology and quantify the actual commercial and environmental benefits.

The project seeks to increase the global competitiveness of the UK steel industry, enabling the manufacture of both existing and new products in a more ecologically sound manner, together with significant savings in energy, CO2 footprint and manpower.

“This project aims to exploit Mars exploration technology for the benefit of climate change reduction and to assist with the regeneration of British industry”, said Prof Muller, Head of Imaging at MSSL

Meanwhile Neville Slack of CPI Thermal Technologies Centre said: “This is an excellent example of technology originally developed for the space sector being transferred to the UK’s process industry sector.”

 HTP-Control has the potential to realise significant savings to the continuous casting plant by reducing the amount of as-cast semi being diverted for surface rectification.

With the ability to map surface defects, significant savings can be made on storage, movement, manual inspection and must importantly energy and CO2.

The technology has applications within other market sectors, for example process, energy, construction and materials, other metals and waste and reclamation.

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