Steel industry foundations at Swansea University

SaMI is located at Swansea University, a longstanding member of the steel community. The institution plays a key role in steel innovation through close collaboration with industry.

The university was founded to support industry in the south Wales region and experts at Swansea University have been working with steel ever since.

The region is famous for its expertise in steel and metals. It is the ideal setting for SaMI as we help industry with steel innovation and a transition for the future.

The future of steel

Steel is the most commonly used metal in the world and the most recycled material. Almost everything we use is either made of steel, or made using steel, and often both.

Steel is often misunderstood as an old-fashioned industry. In fact, it is an indispensable part of the future. 

If we want a cleaner, greener future, then we need steel.

Steel innovation at Swansea University

Steel endures.  As the world’s most recycled material steel can be recycled infinitely with no loss of quality.  Many steel products don’t need recycling very often.  The average life span of a steel product is 40 years: shorter than this for a drinks can, but a lot longer for bridges.

Swansea University is heavily involved in steel innovation. Teams are inventing new coatings to extend steel’s lifespan even further and developing new steels as strong as current options but lighter.

Steel innovation for industry

Around 3500 grades of steel are in use today, and 75% of them didn’t exist 20 years ago.

Swansea University’s Specific project have designed and constructed buildings that generate, store and release their own energy.

Steel innovation plays a key role in these innovative ‘Active Buildings’. They are built with a new steel developed by Tata Steel with tiny perforations in it.  The sun warms the steel and a boundary layer of air, which is drawn into the building through the perforations, providing renewable heat.

Addressing energy in buildings is essential for decarbonisation. Combined with other technologies, like solar panels and batteries, the result is buildings that can be energy positive. The energy surplus can charge electric vehicles and supply neighbouring buildings.

Steel decarbonisation

There is a real challenge for the steel industry to address decarbonisation. Making steel remains a carbon-intensive business but the industry is improving fast. 

At SaMI we are focused on steel innovation by delivering practical solutions to industry. We are working with UK steel businesses to decarbonise ironmaking whilst maintaining process efficiency.

Our aim is to transition the industry from using coal as its primary energy source to a mix of renewable energy, hydrogen and waste materials. We are helping the steel industry transition towards decarbonisation.

To address steel’s environmental impact, we need to innovate products as well as the manufacturing process.   Wind turbines are 80% steel.  Rails for train travel are 100% steel.   Electric vehicles need specialist electrical steels in their motors and generators.  

21st century steel vision

The Sustain project based at Swansea University brings together the entire UK steel industry.

SaMI shares a vision with SUSTAIN to make steel fit for the 21st century. Steel that is responsive to customers. Steel driven by data. Steel that is zero carbon.  

Today’s steelmaking is about laboratories and laser testing as much as blast furnaces and chimneys.  Hi-tech and highly skilled, steel is a 21st century industry.

Our 100-year relationship with the steel industry continues as we work together to transition steel into an industry of the future.

 

Contributed by Kevin Sullivan, March 2021

Kevin Sullivan is a Senior Press Officer for Swansea University

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