Giving Australia a competitive advantage in global steel markets

To remain competitive in the global steel industry, Australia must be innovative. The global drive for energy savings and reduced emissions means there are new markets for products such as lighter but stronger steels.

The Australian Microscopy and Microanalysis Research Facility (AMMRF) —supported by the Australian Government’s National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) programme — is working with BlueScope Steel Ltd to look at these issues.

How does AMMRF help?

BlueScope has worked with other steel companies to develop the Castrip® process to produce thin, strip-cast steel. The Castrip® process produces 70 per cent less greenhouse gas emissions and needs less than 10 per cent of the floor space of conventional steel mills.

BlueScope approached the AMMRF to help them refine Castrip®. The AMMRF facility enables world-class innovation in fields ranging from engineering to agriculture, archaeology to medicine.

BlueScope approached the AMMRF because of their world-leading expertise and technical ability in the application of atom probe tomography (APT) to alloy development and analysis. APT is the only characterisation tool that enables the nanostructures within the microalloyed Castrip® steels to be properly described and understood.

With careful control of the casting conditions, composition and heat treatment, the Castrip® steels are made stronger, without losing ductility. Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and APT showed that these improved properties are due to cluster hardening, where tiny groups of alloying atoms can strongly affect the physical properties of the bulk material. BlueScope would not have the insights into the microstructures of the improved steels without the facilities and expertise provided by the AMMRF.

Results

The understanding of the microalloyed Castrip® nanostructure and how to control it will create new, improved steel products.

The data from the AMMRF facilities has enabled a patent to be filed that will protect these findings. BlueScope are now working to replicate the laboratory processes in its production line in order to develop products for the market place. This outcome will support BlueScope’s overall strategy of increasing its position as a leading international supplier of steel products and solutions, while generating maximum value from existing flat steel operations in Australia, New Zealand and North America, which is good news for our region.

“To remain competitive in an increasing global market place requires BlueScope to continuously evolve new and improved products. One of the key inputs is our capability for innovation in materials engineering. The AMMRF has been at the vanguard of our ability for metallurgical innovation.”
Chris Killmore, Product Design Manager, BlueScope Steel

Did you know?

  • AMMRF was established in 2007 under NCRIS as a collaboration of eight major university-based microscopy centres led by the University of Sydney. Partner institutions include the University of Queensland, University of New South Wales, University of Adelaide, University of Western Australia, University of South Australia as well as Australian National University and Flinders University. The network is extended through links to specialist laboratories at another six institutions.
  • AMMRF supports 3000 researchers each year, generating approximately 1000 publications annually. It comprises nearly 300 instruments run by almost 120 expert staff, supporting over 60 different microscopy techniques.
  • Available to all Australian researchers on the basis of merit, the AMMRF Facility enables innovation through more than 100 partnerships with industry and through international collaborations.

The Australian Government is proud to provide funding for AMMRF’s important work through NCRIS.

You can find out more about AMMRF and about other NCRIS initiatives on their websites.