Dr Rachel Waugh was an invited keynote speaker at voestalpine’s annual synergy platform, where researchers from across the whole voestalpine group gather to exchange know-how, to hear about current R&D projects, to network and to hear external lecturers to get new insights from outside the company. 

The 2016 topic was 'Steel production in the 21st century', and took place on 22 June in Leoben, Austria. Leoben is a historical mining town; voestalpine Stahl Donawitz is situated there, as is the University of Leoben (Montanuniversität Leoben). Usually around 160 people from voestalpine group take part in the annual event. The big topic under discussion this year was: how can/will steel be produced in the future? European steel production will be strongly influenced by CO2 regulations and energy efficiency, so it is imperative to discuss and develop alternative ways of steelmaking for the near future.

Rachel's talk was based on her paper 'The end of the blast furnace era?' which has been published by the journal Ironmaking and Steelmaking and which explores the underlying drivers of steel production to predict the fate of the blast furnace as a steelmaking route.

Steel production is driven by population growth and economic development but, with an increase in the availability of end-of-life scrap, the electric arc furnace is likely to be the main production route in the future. With increasing constraints on resource and carbon use and the need for material efficiency strategies to provide the same services with less liquid steel, Rachel predicts we may see the end of the blast furnace era within the next 50 years.

Dr Waugh's paper is based on research undertaken as part of the WellMet2050 project, and was delivered at the Cleveland Institution of Engineers debate in December 2014. The article is available in HTML and PDF versions via this link http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/9YZWdNs4j8y7XhTRfE7e/full