Process systems tools for design and optimization of carbothermic reduction processes

DI Gerogiorgis*, BE Ydstie, MJ Bruno, K Johansen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Collaborations between metallurgical industries and universities can be advantageous to both and evolve into win-win situations, because carefully planned and jointly executed research programs can benefit corporate research and development (R&D) and simultaneously promote basic and applied academic research. Successful partnerships provide exciting opportunities, far more interesting than mere technical consulting or abstract endeavors without application focus.

This paper presents the story of a fruitful collaboration among ALCOA Inc. (world leader in primary aluminium production), ELKEM ASA Research of Norway (R&D branch of a corporation with long, outstanding expertise in reactor design engineering), the Department of Chemical Engineering and the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. The strategic goal of this partnership of academia with industry is a thorough technical and economic feasibility investigation addressing the proposed carbothermic production of aluminium; this ambitious objective clearly implies interdependent challenges, requiring theoretical and technical expertise at all levels, to ensure that (a) an interdisciplinary research team is assembled, (b) a realistic research program is outlined and executed, (c) clear objectives and success criteria are defined for all R&D stages, (d) regular progress evaluation provides future guidelines, and (e) usage of personnel, budget, and resources remains optimal.

The ongoing multidisciplinary and multifacetted research program encompasses a pleiad of concurrent necessary activities, including an extensive literature survey of journal papers as well as patents, a systematic thermophysical property compilation for chemical compounds, an evaluation of various previous computer modeling conclusions, a multilevel computational modeling program of the carbothermic reactor design conceived (using stage and total process models), laboratory-scale experiment/microscopy campaigns addressing the complex reaction mechanism and mass transfer at the microscale level, a multitude of large-scale pilot reactor experiment campaigns addressing many different complicated technical challenges, process operability, controllability and safety investigation, and detailed quantitative economic analysis.

The lasting alliance among ALCOA Inc., ELKEM ASA and Carnegie Mellon University forms an ambitious prototype for meaningful collaborations between industry and academia, clearly aimed at applied research and development of a novel process with a definite potential for construction and commercialization. The obvious challenge here and throughout the research program is the vital necessity to coordinate effort, disseminate information, set goals and evaluate progress so as to accelerate developments; the existence of several research units, groups and individuals with diverse backgrounds must be seriously considered, because it can pose challenges that are crucial to the effectiveness of the team and the success in the objective.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAluminum 2003
EditorsSK Das
Place of PublicationWARRENDALE
Number of pages10
ISBN (Print)0-87339-542-5
Publication statusPublished - 2003
EventSymposium on Aluminum held at the TMS 2003 Annual Meeting - SAN DIEGO, Canada
Duration: 2 Mar 20036 Mar 2003


ConferenceSymposium on Aluminum held at the TMS 2003 Annual Meeting

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)



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