Hidden Phenomena During Transient Reaction Trajectories in Liquid Metals Processing

Stephen Spooner, Zushu Li, Seetharaman Sridhar

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The transient trajectory taken for a system striving toward equilibration has consequences on the rate of processes and on the chemical and physical state of products in metallurgical processes. A case study approach to recent advancements in liquid steel processing is given. A combination of techniques and knowledge developed is given as a targeted showcase of the authors’ contributions to the understanding of liquid metal droplet reactions and their contribution to the large-scale production processes within the steel industry. Examples relevant to novel ironmaking technologies, oxygen steelmaking, ladle metallurgy, and continuous casting are discussed, showing the range of processes that benefit from greater understanding in this area. This article considers specifically the reaction of liquid ferrous droplets, immersed in molten oxides, involving key alloying components, including phosphorus, aluminum, and carbon. The studies use high-temperature–confocal scanning laser microscopy (HT-CSLM), X-ray computed tomography (XCT), phase-field modeling, and in situ limited angle X-ray imaging. These techniques have seen significant development over recent years, and the combination of these powerful tools reveals the occurrence of spontaneous emulsification driven by chemical reaction (in the case of oxygen/phosphorus/aluminum reactions) and gas-phase formation (in the case of decarburization) both internally and externally to a steel droplet. A key finding is that the interfacial area pertinent for the heterogenous reactions to occur changes considerably (by up to an order of magnitude) depending on the chemical driving force. Additional key findings include the shift between preferential internal and external gas nucleation during decarburization, an inflection point of behavior as to whether or not spontaneous emulsification will occur (within the study discussed, this is between 3 and 4 wt pct Al) and the pathway of perturbation growth through which spontaneous emulsification occurs, including the physical maxima a perturbation will grow to before breaking away from the parent droplet.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1301-1314
Number of pages14
JournalMetallurgical and Materials Transactions B: Process Metallurgy and Materials Processing Science
Early online date6 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020
Externally publishedYes

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The authors acknowledge the support for this work by EPSRC through Grant No. EP/N011368/1 and the continued collaboration and funding of Tata Steel Europe.


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