30 Jan Metals – an Infinitely Recyclable Resource

Brunel University London researchers led a meeting of the Future LiME (Liquid Metals Engineering) hub, with researchers from several of the UK’s leading Universities, and a number of their key industrial partners, including the Cast Metals Federation, to listen to presentations on the progress and plans for the LiME Hub project.

The project aims to lay down a solid foundation for full metal circulation, demonstrated initially with light metals and then extended to other metals. The Hub’s long-term vision is full metal circulation, in which the global demand for metallic materials is met by a full circulation of secondary metals (with only limited addition of primary metals each year) through reduced usage, reuse, remanufacture, closed-loop recycling and effective recovery and refining of secondary metals taking advantage of metals infinite recyclability as permanent materials. This represents a paradigm shift for metallurgical science, manufacturing technology and the industrial landscape.

Prof Fan, who is leading the project from Brunel University London, explained that the UK metal casting industry, including continuous casting adds £2.6bn/yr to the UK economy, employs 30,000 people, produces 1.14BnT of metal castings per year and underpins the competitive position of every sector of UK manufacturing. However, the industry faces severe challenges – increasing energy costs, increasing materials costs, tightening environmental regulations and a short supply of skilled people.

He provided an overview of the vision towards full metal circulation, introduced the specific area(s) of focus for the hub and spokes and a brief overview of the highlights of the fundamental science underpinning the programme.

The Industrial Steering Panel for the Future LiME Hub, which includes JLR, Constellium, Grainger and Worral Ltd and Sarginsons Industries Ltd, then heard presentations from Dr Jayesh Patel, Brunel University London, on the ‘Technological overview of high shear technology and its relevance towards/in the implementation in industry’ and from Dr Chris Gourlay, Imperial College London, where the focus is on Mg based alloys and intermetallics relevant to iron control and recycling. Prof Andy Mullis from the University of Leeds, is carrying out phase-field modelling and developing a phase-field modelling capability for simulating the growth of intermetallics. At the University of Manchester the Focus on electron microspcopic study of atomic arrangement at the solid/substrate interface, as presented by Prof Xiaorong Zhou. Finally Prof Patrick Grant, Oxford University, presented the progress by his team on imaging and the measurement of solidification; equiaxed solidification and intermetallic growth. The team has set up an automated algorithm to work more quickly through their data.

During the discussion that followed there was a clear focus on the need to improve the industrial pull using impact case studies as well as academically focussed presentations, perhaps with different approaches based upon the audience.

Industrial engagement and dissemination was seen as the first challenge to tackle through a communications strategy with the wider industry. It was recognised that while the project was producing some very industrial significant results this was not being effectively communicated to the wider industry so that the benefits of the significant investment in the project could be commercially realised. The work is already achieving greater understanding and results that the industrial partners agreed will result in technical advantages and opportunities for further cost saving and lightweighting.

Photograph shows Industrial Partners, Cast Metals Federation and the University Project team meeting to discuss progress and future plans for the LiME Project.

Angela Mason
Angela Mason