Metallurgy shows profile
In recent decades, all sectors of industry have experienced reorientations, upheavals or new beginnings. The causes of these processes have been far-reaching technical innovations, social changes or external influences such as the energy crisis of 1974. Computer technology and informatics have fundamentally changed working conditions for everyone and working methods for many.
During this tense period, metallurgy changed from a throughput-oriented industry to a multi-faceted, quality-driven industry. The technical innovations fluidized bed technology, flash smelting, oxygen metallurgy, continuous casting, and smelting reduction are characterized by an enormous increase in energy flux density. Solvent extraction and secondary metallurgy are examples of processes with extremely effective reaction selectivity. Selectivity of reactions and transport mechanisms are also the fundamentals for the production of semiconductors and high-purity metallic materials. The formation of microstructures and phases as well as the distribution of alloying and accompanying elements (segregations) determine the quality of cast products. Their controlled management is of fundamental importance for the foundry as a primary forming technology. In materials technology, heat treatment and forming have entered into a close symbiosis for the benefit of a far improved property profile, e.g. of ferritic and austenitic steels. Today, material forming processes are governed by the principle of maximum manufacturing accuracy.
The technical development has been accompanied by advances in scientific metallurgy: quantitative thermodynamics of reactions and mixed phases, heterogeneous equilibria and alloy constitution, reaction mechanisms and microkinetics, the incorporation of fluid mechanics into metallurgical process engineering, the theory and reality of solidification processes, the understanding of forming processes based on modern plasticity theory. Today, the modeling and simulation of metallurgical processes, the methods of recycling metals and alloys, the development of functional materials for the highest stresses are the focus of research in the field of metallurgy.
Metallurgy a future-oriented technology and a fascinating field of research
Metallurgy is the engineering science of extracting metals from ores, shaping metals by casting and forming processes, and recycling methods by which used metals, alloys, and residues are returned to the cycle of use. Modern metal extraction and processing methods are predominantly high-temperature processes. However, processes are also carried out at low temperatures, such as leaching and electrolysis processes. For all its diversity and versatility, metallurgy is based on an orderly, scientific foundation: it consists of the thermochemistry of substances, reactions and mixed phases, and the conditions of existence of phases and phase mixtures. In addition, there are the fields of reaction kinetics and hydrodynamics. With the inclusion of reaction engineering, the building of metallurgical reactor theory is thus created.
In almost all areas of metallurgy, scientific penetration of the processes has reached a high level. On this basis, sub-processes are mathematically modeled in the current development and the sub-processes are combined into simulation models. New methods of control engineering such as fuzzy logic or neural networks are widely used in metallurgy. The use of databases and expert systems are state of the art.
Metals can be returned to the metallurgical process any number of times. The technology of recycling metals has been used for centuries and has been expanded and refined in recent decades. In this respect, companies in the metallurgical and scrap industries have achieved exemplary results, e.g. in the recycling of old vehicle bodies. Mineral molding materials used in foundry technology are also recycled through treatment and regeneration. The new development of recycling plastic scrap in the blast furnace process is also worthy of mention.
The metal extraction and processing processes require the use of large amounts of energy. This situation places a special social responsibility on metallurgy. Economical use of the resources feedstock and energy is therefore a key issue in metallurgical development. The successes achieved in this area are impressive: Specific energy consumption in the steel industry has fallen by around 30% since 1975, and the same applies to CO2 emissions.
Great progress has also been made in keeping the air and water clean. The topics of environmental protection, recycling and the utilization of residual materials are integrated into the courses of study.