Research Fellows Directory
Professor Shaowei Zhang
University of Exeter
This research aims to develop low carbon fire-proof/insulating (refractory) materials used by metallurgical industries such as steel industry. The materials currently used contain large amounts of carbon, which causes several problems, including: 1) carbon contamination in metals; 2) poor insulation performance (thus heat loss); 3) use of large amounts of expensive graphite (thus high cost); and 4) low mechanical strength.
To address these problems, a very thin flake-shaped material called graphene (which has better performance) has been attempted to replace its thick graphite counterparts currently used. Also, some nanosized metal particles have been combined with the binder used in the current commercial products to improve the performance of the latter.
The research carried out during the last year has found that graphene addition, as expected, can greatly improve the mechanical strength of the refractories. Also, it has been found that addition of metal nanoparticles can assist the formation of many very small carbon nanotubes in the fired binder. These nanotubes can improve the links/binding between different particles, additionally making the whole refractory materials even stronger.
It is expected that the successful replacement of large amounts of graphite with small amounts of graphene will eventually lead to the development of better, cheaper, more energy-saving and greener refractory materials, greatly benefiting the metallurgical industries and other related industries.In addition to its great academic and industrial significance, the work will have great environmental significance.