By STEVEN NALLEY
Mississippi State University announced on Wednesday a new partnership with Severstal North America to create a 4,000-square-foot Steel Research Center (SRC) endowed with many of the same capabilities as Severstal’s Columbus plant on a smaller scale that makes experimental alloy research financially viable.
A Severstal press release says MSU plans to commission the SRC’s lab-scale melt furnace early this year, and the SRC will form an advisory board of leaders from MSU and the steel industry later in the year. The SRC will be housed inside the Edwards Reactor Building on Herbert Street.
Roger King, director of MSU’s Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems (CAVS), said the SRC is the first research facility of its kind in the U.S., and Severstal is funding the SRC in full. King said the SRC is essentially a lab-scale steel mill, complete with a $200,000 electric arc furnace similar to the one at Severstal’s Columbus plant, but smaller. The SRC will allow MSU to test different chemical compositions for alloys, discover those alloys’ unique properties and determine which alloys have strong potential at the commercial level, he said.
“It’s a way to develop new alloys at a smaller scale to understand what mixture of alloy makes the most sense,” King said. “Then, if Severstal says, ‘That looks like something we might want to do,’ then you take it out to the big plant because it’s going to cost a lot more money to do it out there than it would here. (At the SRC,) you’re doing it on a scale you can afford.”
Severstal’s press release says the company also hopes for SRC research to grow the local economy and draw regional, national and international participation in steel research, services and education. Chris Kristock, vice president for quality and product development for Severstal North America, said in this release that he hopes for SRC to not only benefit the steel industry, but also the MSU student body.
“Through this association, Severstal hopes to participate in the development of metallurgical and material engineers at MSU and receive the benefit of laboratory scale product and process improvement trials,” Kristock said. “We are thrilled to be partnering with such a prestigious university to further educate young people on the advanced technologies in (the) steel-making process.”
King said the SRC does not specifically belong to Severstal. In fact, he said, Severstal is open to the SRC working with other companies and to its research discoveries benefitting the steel industry as a whole.
“This is not the Severstal Research Center. It’s a generic capability that the university has,” King said. “What (Severstal is) looking at is (a need for) a facility like this in the U.S.”
King also said SRC’s research will incorporate all academic levels, from postdoctoral researchers to undergraduate students. This has been a common practice at CAVS, he said, where undergraduate students are integrated into all research. It does not mean the SRC functions as a Severstal internship for undergraduates, he said, but it does offer valuable experience.
“It could give (undergraduates) better understandings of the steel-making process,” King said. “It’s more (about) the research, but if you were there, you would understand more what it takes to make steel, the impacts of particular elements on the quality of the steel.”