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Metal Casting Technologies : December 2006
METAL Casting Technologies December 2006 8 BRIEFINGS Cool smelting helping to reduce global warming Australian researchers are investigating a new way of making aluminium that could cut the energy required to produce the metal by up to 30 per cent. Aluminium is an energy-intensive industry, consuming as much as 15 per cent of Australia's electricity, which contributes to the nation's greenhouse gas emissions. Over the past decade, the industry has gone some way towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions from its smelter potlines and improving its energy efficiency. Now, the industry is working with the Light Metals Flagship -- a national research program led by CSIRO -- to investigate the use of ionic liquids in reducing the very high temperatures needed for aluminium smelting. The Flagship's ionic liquids research project leader, Dr Theo Rodopoulos, says the key to ionic liquids is their low melting point. "Aluminium is currently produced through electro-deposition, where the alumina is dissolved in a molten cryolite bath at 1000°C and an electric current is applied to separate aluminium from oxygen," Dr Rodopoulos says. "By contrast, ionic liquids typically melt below 100°C. If they can be used instead of molten cryolite, they could dramatically reduce a smelter's energy needs." The Flagship is working with CSIRO Minerals and mining company Rio Tinto to develop ionic liquids for aluminium production. Rio Tinto's technology support general manager, Dr Ray Shaw, says that although research on ionic liquids is still in its early days, it is a novel approach that the company is monitoring closely. Dr Shaw says ionic liquids could reduce the electricity used in aluminium production by 20-30 per cent. "Whether that's achievable or not is uncertain at this early stage, but if there's an opportunity to improve, then we're interested in exploring it," Dr Shaw says. Ionic liquids could be used as alternative media for reprocessing nuclear fuel and waste in the nuclear power industry, and as catalysts or solvents in a host of other industrial processes. CSIRO is also exploring their use as electrolytes in lithium batteries, because the organic solvents used in lithium battery manufacture are volatile and flammable. Other potential uses include carbon dioxide recapture in power plants, desulfurisation of fuels and even perfume production. Dr Rodopoulos believes these unusual liquids have significant commercial potential. They are often called designer solvents because they can be tailored to meet the needs of specific applications. "An almost infinite number of combinations is possible," Dr Rodopoulos says. Further Information, Dr Rodopoulos, Light Metals Flagship Theo.email@example.com A Bright Future for the Foundry World Representatives from 23 countries attended the recent International Foundry Forum in Portugal which included speakers from foundry markets such as China, India, Japan, Europe, Brazil, USA and Russia. The 225 CEO's from major casting users, the foundry industry, as well as foundry equipment and consumable suppliers, discussed actual market and business trends. Participants gained an insight into the trends and expectations of selected castings user industries as well as the foundry industry itself from around the world. Presentations from these countries showed a strong increase in casting capacities which must not necessarily lead to over-capacities world wide in the future as the demand for castings tends to grow. The structural trends in the foundry industry will continue to shift capacities to developing countries leaving however sufficient opportunities to foundries in the industrialised world if they meet the high-end requirements of their customers thus investing in R&D, modern equipment and alliances. Among the casting using industries the focus was set on the automotive industry. The speakers elaborated on the structural changes and expected regional shifts of the OEMs and their suppliers which will result in a certain adaptation pressure of the supplying foundries with respect to their regional activities on the one hand and the need of acting as system suppliers on the other hand. During the Forum, Emilio Cremona, President of CAEF (European Foundry Association) pointed out that one of the Forum's main topics concerned the consequences of globalization on the international metal foundry system. Gabriele Galante, President of CEMAFON (European Association of Materials and Products for Foundries) highlighted that the expansion of markets are offering great chances and opportunities for firms to innovate and upgrade. The requests from main final users to foundries are clear and simple: what is needed is more technical education, organizing abilities, availability to partnerships, and high quality at competitive prices. It was pointed out that the foundry system has to evaluate their needs with great care thus fully exploiting the chances offered by R&D of products, materials and processes. China has become the second largest automotive market in the world The rapidly growing Chinese automotive market is a critical part of the global automotive market. In 2005, the sales and production of automobiles in China reached 5.75 million units and 5.85 million units, respectively, overtaking Japan to become the second largest automotive market in the world. China now represents nearly 9% of the overall global automobile sales volume and 23% of the global automobile market growth. Passenger vehicles, especially economy