28 March 2023
by Sarah Morgan

Major zinc recovery project

A £250,000 project seeks to unlock a practical method of removing zinc from by-products produced as part of the iron and steelmaking processes.

Dr Tutu Sebastian, Senior Researcher at the Materials Processing Institute, who is managing the project.

© Materials Processing Institute

The 17-month project, led by the The Materials Processing Institute, identifies a sustainable and cost-effective method that will allow more iron to be recovered and reused in the iron and steelmaking process and more zinc to be recovered for reuse within separate UK supply chains.

It will investigate and evaluate several potential solutions, including pyrometallurgy, a conventional process that recovers non-ferrous and precious metals from electronic waste; ultra-sonic separation, a technology that uses high-frequency ultrasound to separate materials; and a hydrometallurgical process that oxidises metallic zinc in ionic liquids.

Part of PRISM, the Innovate UK-funded programme which supports research and innovation in the steel and metals sector, the Institute will collaborate with British Steel, Tata Steel, CELSA Group and Marcegaglia Stainless.

While a proportion of iron and zinc by-products produced by  steel-making methods can be reused, in a blast furnace once the concentration of zinc rises above a certain level the iron units are no longer able to be recovered.

The global steel industry has tried without success to find a practical solution for zinc removal from by-products for many years.

Chris McDonald, Chief Executive Officer of the Teesside-based Materials Processing Institute, says, 'This is very much a collaborative effort.'