"Real Steel" but takes 90% less energy to make

Steel can be made using 90 per cent less energy than in the most common production process, but very few companies are pursuing this more environmentally-friendly method because the science behind it has not been well understood.

Associate Research Professor Nikki Stanford is changing that through research that explains the exact behaviour of steel using thin strip casting.

The method involves turning liquid steel directly into thin strips up to 3mm thick, rather than the traditional process which involves steel casting, hot and cold rolling (including reheating), coil coating and strip processing. A gigatonne of steel sheeting (1000 million tonnes) is made every year for use in roofing, fencing, car doors and general construction and that figure is growing.

Changes to this new method is a massive environmental benefit. While the traditional process of repeatedly forging and rolling steel into the required shape is understood, the same cannot be said of the thin strip casting method. In strip casting, the steel is cast between two water-cooled rolls, producing a strip. This results in very rapid cooling and high production speeds. There is a need to expand the kinds of alloys that can be made using this process.

The strip casting method can also make stronger steel, requiring less steel in finished products, reducing weight and associated costs.

Associate Professor Stanford was appointed as part of a new $2m fellowship program aiming to increase the number of female researchers in the Future Industries Institute. In partnership with UniSA and University College London's (UCL) Faculty of Engineering, Santos has provided $2 million to fund the research fellowships.