This ever so slightly annoys

Anyone who has seen pictures of the giant, red-hot cauldrons in which steel is made — fed by vast amounts of carbon, and belching flame and smoke — would not be surprised to learn that steelmaking is one of the world’s leading industrial sources of greenhouse gases. But remarkably, a new process developed by MIT researchers could change all that.

The new process even carries a couple of nice side benefits: The resulting steel should be of higher purity, and eventually, once the process is scaled up, cheaper. Donald Sadoway, the John F. Elliott Professor of Materials Chemistry at MIT and senior author of a new paper describing the process, says this could be a significant “win, win, win” proposition.

Looks pretty fun.

Molten oxide electrolysis (MOE) is an electrometallurgical technique that enables the direct production of metal in the liquid state from oxide feedstock.

You certainly can do that: whether you want to or not becomes an economic question. And that\’s what they\’re working on, how to make it economic.

However, what ever so slightly grates is that steel is just the one product that you cannot make in a \”carbon free\” manner. You can make iron, most certainly, and that\’s what they\’re actually doing here. But you cannot make steel: for steel is an alloy of iron and carbon (or amalgam, mixture, if you prefer).

I know the researchers wouldn\’t really make that mistake but they might when describing matters colloquially. Or the PR guy perhaps.

9 thoughts on “This ever so slightly annoys”

  1. Surreptitious Evil

    But “carbon-free” in science speak means ‘a lack of carbon’.

    “Carbon-free” in PR speak means ‘no carbon given out in production’ or ‘more carbon sequestered in production or random tree planting than given off …’

    And even the PR was talking mostly about stuff like “Production of a ton of steel generates almost two tons of CO2 emissions”.

  2. Isnt it the case that most steel in the west in produced by recycling scrap? Hence not involving large amounts of carbon. I think Tim has had a couple of posts on this very subject.

    Tim adds: I’m not sure about “most”. More than in the past, yes. And no one’s ever going to build another blast furnace in the west.

  3. But producing all that pesky CO2 has a useful side effect – heat, which is quite handy in a blast furnace.

    Electrolysis of molten ore is all very well, but you have to melt it first, most likely using electricity produced in a power plant spewing out….. CO2.

  4. What pisses me off is people who equate carbon with carbon dioxide. Unless I am shitting out graphite, my carbon footprint is precisely zero.

  5. Surreptitious Evil

    Must be an oil industry thing. I’ve had all sorts of horrid things happen to my feet but I’ve never had to take a shit through them. Carbon or otherwise.

  6. So Much For Subtlety

    Tim Newman – “What pisses me off is people who equate carbon with carbon dioxide. Unless I am shitting out graphite, my carbon footprint is precisely zero.”

    What if you are buying a diamond ring for the special one in your life?

    What pisses me off is that the PR hacks who write this tripe clearly did not pay attention in their High School science classes. One of the joys of East Asia, outside the mainland, is that even Arts graduates get a fair bit of basic science. In Britain these days? Pixie dust is better understood and more credible among all the Arts graduates you are likely to come across – starting in Westminster and working down.

  7. Noel C said:

    “Electrolysis of molten ore is all very well, but you have to melt it first, most likely using electricity produced in a power plant spewing out….. CO2.”

    Exactly. It’s like the electric car sellers claiming their cars have zero emissions. The emissions are simply out of sight, at the coal fired utility plant down the road.

  8. Aluminium smelting is done by electrolysis, and, at least in Europe, usually uses hydroelectricity.

    Steel is usually made from (high-carbon) pig iron, by burning off most of the carbon.

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