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Coffee coal

The University of New South Wales has published three papers in favour of replacing coal with coffee grounds and hydrogen in its patented Green Steel technology.

The University’s Sustainable Materials Research & Technology Centre (UNSW SMaRT) found its Green Steel Polymer Injection Technology (PIT) could be used to produce more sustainable steel in electric arc furnaces.

UNSW SMaRT Centre director Veena Sahajwalla said plastic and coffee grounds could now join a list of waste materials able to be substituted for coal as carbon sources for steel making.

“Steelmakers have to meet the demands of quality requirements. The metal that gets produced doesn’t have any memory of whether the parent material that went in was coal or coffee,” she said.

The research doesn’t yet remove all coking coal from the steel-making process and current methods find a particular mix of injected materials produce the best outcome – high quality steel.

But Sahajwalla said the eventual aim is to produce steel without coke at all.

“If you have a combination of materials, you get a better outcome because you’re able to fine-tune and customise green steel, and take the kinds of materials that do the best job,” she said.

“It gives you the kind of productivity requirements that any commercial operator will want.

“We’ve proven that it does the job at a comparable level, so we’re going to be at least sitting at an equivalent performance. If I’m going to be so bold and brave, I’d love to show that it can do even better.”

Green steel making processes have received increasing attention in the past six months, with BHP, Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals Group all putting time into their research

The three papers from UNSW detailing the research results can all be found here.