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October 2006


Iron making alternative process demonstrated

The American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) announced that under the leadership of Professor Donald R. Sadoway, a team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has successfully demonstrated the technical viability of producing iron by molten oxide electrolysis (MOE).

As part of the AISI/Department of Energy (DOE) Technology Roadmap Program (TRP), producing iron in the lab by MOE represents a significant stride and is a positive signal about the future of this technology, according to Lawrence W. Kavanagh, AISI vice president of manufacturing and technology.

“What sets molten oxide electrolysis apart from other metal producing technologies is that it is totally carbon-free and, hence, generates no CO2 gases—only oxygen,” said Kavanagh. “Over the last two decades, steelmakers have reduced energy utilization per ton by some 28%, and today’s processes are productive and green—but steelmakers need to and want to do more—and the development of transformational iron making technologies such as MOE will make similar achievements possible over the next two decades as well.”

Unlike other iron making processes, MOE works by passing an electric current through a liquid solution of iron oxide. The iron oxide then breaks down into liquid iron and oxygen gas allowing oxygen to be the main by-product of the process.

MIT will continue experiments to determine how to increase the rate of iron production and to discover new materials capable of extending the life of the electrodes to industrially practical limits.

This work will set the stage for construction of a pilot scale cell to further validate the viability of the MOE process and identify scale up parameters.

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