Innovation That Matters

| Photo source Limelight Steel

Could lasers hold the key to cleaning up steelmaking?


The zero-emission process can be used for high- and low-grade iron ore

Spotted: Steel is an extremely useful material, used in everything from cars and home construction to medical equipment, but producing it also generates seven per cent of global CO2 emissions. This is because a huge amount of energy is needed for its manufacture – energy largely derived from the burning of fossil fuels. Working to change this is Limelight Steel, which uses lasers to electrify the ironmaking process, a key step in steel manufacturing.

The California-based company’s laser heating can reach temperatures high enough to decompose iron ore into iron metal and oxygen in a process the startup claims could slash steelmaking emissions by over 80 per cent and reduce energy consumption by nearly half.

Hydrogen-based furnaces, another promising option for steel decarbonisation, can only use high-purity iron ore, since they operate at low temperatures and cannot remove impurities in their reactors. Limelight’s laser furnace, however, can separate the impurities from low-grade ore, allowing it to access the vast majority of the world’s iron ore supply for green ironmaking.

This year the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) awarded $28 million to 13 companies, universities, and research institutions that are developing innovations targeting blast furnace emissions. Under the scheme, Limelight was awarded $2.9 million to further develop its process.

Written By: Lisa Magloff




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