UF Engineer is Using $11M Research Award to Make Steel Manufacturing More Energy Efficient

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Michelle Manuel

Heat-treating steel during its manufacturing stage is an energy-intensive process where much of the energy is wasted through heat-loss due to outdated furnace designs and other system inefficiencies.

Backed by a nearly $11 million award from the Department of Energy, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Advanced Manufacturing Office, Michele Manuel, Ph.D., professor and chair of the UF Department of Materials Science & Engineering, is leading an industry-national laboratory-university consortium in developing an Induction-coupled Thermomagnetic Processing (ITMP) method to help solve that problem and help position the American steel industry as a world leader in alloy manufacturing.

Instead of using single energy source refinement techniques such as electricity or natural gas, the ITMP process is designed to utilize volumetric induction heating in combination with high-static magnetic fields in order to significantly reduce energy demands. This could result in the possibility of better end products, such as new alloys with superior attributes, and a considerably reduced carbon footprint associated with their production.

Dr. Manuel, an internationally recognized leader and expert in light metals, design and computational methodologies for materials development and materials, will be collaborating with industry and academic partners from the University of Florida, Virginia Tech, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and Oak Ridge National Laboratory in this research.

“We are enthusiastic to partner with the Department of Energy’s Advanced Manufacturing Office to develop a high-impact manufacturing process to increase our global leadership in advanced manufacturing of metals and alloys. We’ve assembled an outstanding team of researchers and corporate partners to not only develop the systems and technology associated with the ITMP method but also the science,” said Dr. Manuel. “An undertaking of this magnitude requires drawing on multiple disciplines and talents to help make it happen, and it’s an honor to work with such talented colleagues across the country.”

Technological advances such as ITMP and the research generated by them are aimed at boosting the U.S. heat treating industry’s worldwide competitive advantage through lowering manufacturing costs with more efficient processes and through the resulting operational and environmental impacts.

This award is part of a 55-project, $187M Department of Energy initiative to strengthen U.S. manufacturing competitiveness. Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency Alex Fitzsimmons recently visited UF to learn how DOE-funded researchers are striving to improve the energy productivity of our nation’s industries and buildings. His blog on the visit commended the work going on across the campus.