Controlling the cupola to help the environment

August 02, 1999

A new sensing and control system could help reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from inefficient operation of the cupola furnaces used in the iron and steel industries. 12 million tonnes of iron are melted in these furnaces annually but the process currently relies on the experience and skills of the operator in deciding which process parameters to adjust to obtain the desired molten iron properties.

The system, funded by a US$960,000 grant from the US Department of Energy, aims to improve the operational efficiency and performance of the cupola furnace by regulating melt rate, temperature, and iron composition intelligently with a control technology. The result will be a more consistent production quality of the cupola furnace, independent of the operator's experience and skills.

The new Intelligent, Integrated, Industrial Process Sensing and Control System (I3PSC) is being developed by a research team headed by Dr Mohamed Abdelrahman at the Tennessee Technological University's Centre for Manufacturing Research. David Loy, also from the centre says, "[the aim is] to change the cupola furnace from an inefficient and environmentally costly manual operation to an interactive, intelligently-controlled operation that can automatically respond to variations in the iron melting process."

An estimated 1500 tonnes of coke could be saved each year in the US alone, helping to make a significant dent in the associated production of greenhouse gases of which 2 per cent of the annual emissions in the US comes specifically from these furnaces. Dr Ted Lundy, director at the Centre for Manufacturing, says, "It is a wonderful opportunity for TTU to help significantly improve a major global industry, while making a difference environmentally".

Notes For Editors
  1. This item is due to appear as "Taking control of the cupola" by David Loy, in the August issue of Materials World, Volume 7, Issue 8, p.475.
  2. Materials World is the journal of The Institute of Materials, the professional organisation of materials scientists and engineers working throughout the world in areas involving the use and application of plastics, rubber, steels, metals and ceramics.
  3. Brief contents of Materials World are also available on the web:
  4. The views and opinions expressed in this article are the views of the author and are not necessarily the views of Materials World, IoM Communications or any other organisation with which they are associated.

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