Israeli company finds way to make steel mills greener
News » Science & Technology
An Israeli company working on technology to produce oxygen on the moon for a future settlement has found a recipe it says could dramatically reduce carbon emissions and costs for the steel industry.
According to Jonathan Geifman, co-founder and CEO of Helios, based in central Israel, for every ton of steel produced, about two tons of global warming carbon dioxide are emitted, making the industry responsible for 8% of humanity's carbon footprint.
The first step in steelmaking is the production of iron, which exists in the earth as oxides. Iron oxides are mined and then placed in high-temperature blast furnaces with coal so that oxygen molecules combine with the carbon in the coal. The by-product is carbon dioxide, a key to global warming.
The company has discovered that the sodium used to make table salt can be used instead of carbon-rich coal. Sodium molecules combine with oxygen molecules in iron ore to form sodium oxide. Sodium oxide can then be split back into sodium and oxygen, and the latter is released into the air. Sodium can be reused.
The idea of using sodium in the steel industry came about as a result of the company's ongoing work with a supralunar oxygen production reactor aimed at separating oxygen from iron oxides found in lunar rock.
Geifman explained that the sodium method requires heating the mixture to about 400°C compared to over 1200°C for the traditional blast furnace method.
Helios already has a benchtop system in its lab and Geifman said it will build a prototype by the end of the year that will replace a conventional blast furnace in at least one foreign steel plant. and will build small demos within their production chains that will use their existing energy infrastructure, — he explained.
He said that by replacing carbon with sodium, his company's solution reduced direct carbon emissions from that stage of the steelmaking process to zero.
It also cut energy demand in half and indirect emissions (from coal or natural gas used to fuel stoves) — by 80–90%.
He added that while Helios was still in the early stages of development, the company is confident that its method could cut steel production costs by tens of percent.
Geifman added that Helios has already tested this technology and found that it works well with other metals such as copper and nickel.
Follow us on Telegram