Cutting-Edge Materials Science is Key to Decarbonizing Steelmaking

Features Published: June 29, 2023

Get a behind-the-scenes look at our Inert Anode Program — a cornerstone of our green steel technology

Disrupting an industry that has relied on fossil fuels for over two thousand years is no easy feat, but we have cutting-edge technology and experts dedicated to our mission: solving the steel industry’s carbon emissions problem in a way that has never been done before – with electrolysis and clean renewable electricity.

What is an inert anode?

The anodes within our steel decarbonization technology are inert (which means they do not participate in the process), have long lifecycles and do not release carbon or other emissions. Our inert anodes are composed of a metallic material that withstands the challenging conditions involved in electrolyzing iron ore.

What’s so important about inert anodes?

Inert anodes are a centerpiece of Boston Metal’s Molten Oxide Electrolysis (MOE) green steel technology. They are the essential element that allows scalable production of pure liquid iron without emitting any CO2.

We immerse the inert anodes in an electrolyte containing iron ore and electrify them. Once the cell heats to 1600 degrees Celsius, the electrolyte splits the bond of the iron oxide in the ore. Inert anodes make it possible for MOE cell lines to run continuously, translating to significant operational gains for steelmakers. Uninterrupted cell lines mean no downtime is needed to switch out anodes and simultaneously eliminate recurring maintenance expenses for anode replacement. With the long service life of inert anodes, MOE is a sustainable long-term solution.

Our inert anode approach is valid at the pilot scale, but in order to meet the demand for green steel worldwide, we’re scaling up for mass commercial production. Since inert anodes operate at high temperatures in corrosive environments and the technology is new, we’re rising to this challenge by building the knowledge base and pioneering manufacturing processes in real time.

Assembling the right team for the job

Here at Boston Metal, we’ve put together a specialized team of engineers and materials scientists dedicated to the industrial validation and production of inert anodes.

Anode development and manufacturing activities are led by Rodolfo Morgado, who brings extensive engineering and R&D experience from his 14 years at a global niobium player based in Brazil. Rodolfo coordinates the efforts of our R&D, engineering and supply chain teams to optimize the anode prototyping, scaling and manufacturing for our MOE steel program.

“With our inert anodes, we’re pushing the boundaries of applied material science and manufacturing. It’s a tough challenge, but that’s what disruption is all about – the confluence of the concept, the talent and the support.” 

Rodolfo Morgado, Anode Development and Manufacturing Lead

The Inert Anode Program team pictured in front of the Boston Metal facility in Woburn, MA. Back row, from left: Daniel Wright, Alojz Kajinic, Santana Huck, Steve Sparkowich and Rodolfo Morgado. Front row, from left: Shubhankar Padwal, Kevin Glorius-Patrick and Shelly Zordich

Our team of engineers and materials scientists includes expert advisors who provide advanced technical support to the program:

Senior Advisory Alloy Development Engineer Alojz Kajinic specializes in physical metallurgy with expertise in high-temperature alloy development, computational thermochemistry and phase equilibrium.

Senior Advisory Process Engineer Steven Sparkowich is a materials scientist focused on metallurgical process development and an expert on reactive and refractory metals.

Consultant Rob Haun provides expertise in plasma arc melting, powder metallurgy and atomization.

Three pillars of the Inert Anode Program
Perfecting the alloy properties of the metallic anode

Treating the anode as a system, the team investigates the behavior of different parts of the system to optimize the alloy properties and ultimately achieve the best performance for each functional characteristic of the anode. This involves ongoing computational modeling to work on the alloy design and its chemical composition, which is then continuously validated through MOE performance testing.

“It is extremely rewarding to advance the MOE green steel technology in my role developing alloy materials for the inert anode. Daily collaboration among engineers and scientists from various technical disciplines like metallurgy and electrochemistry provides the insights and results we’re aiming for as we scale a new technology that has the potential to revolutionize the steel industry.”

Alojz Kajinic, Senior Advisory Alloy Development Engineer
Identify and adapt parallel manufacturing process routes for the predicted alloys and anode shapes

This pillar directly supports our goal of guaranteeing the availability of inert anodes for MOE green steel production at market scale.

“I’ve been tapping into the deep knowledge I’ve acquired over 30+ years in the areas of refractory metals, powder metallurgy and near net shape manufacturing processes to deliver creative manufacturing and equipment design solutions to make complex shaped anodes from advanced alloys. It’s an exciting challenge.”

Steve Sparkowich, Senior Advisory Process Engineer

Steve Sparkowich looks on as R&D Materials Engineer Manisha Dahal adjusts a lab-scale MOE cell

Scaling up inert anode manufacturing

We are currently building a state-of-the-art facility for developing and manufacturing refractory and reactive metals from raw materials to finished products. This manufacturing plant is the first of its kind and will produce the inert anodes for our steel decarbonization technology.

Join us in meeting the green steel challenge

Our Inert Anode Program is a shining example of how we’re using every tool available and innovating at the interface of cutting-edge metallurgy and materials science to green one of the world’s most important materials: steel. With strong company leadership and an incredibly talented team of engineers, metallurgists and scientists, we’ve been forging ahead to deliver the most direct, one-step green steel solution that can scale to billions of tons of output.

Looking to join the team that is bringing this groundbreaking technology to market? Learn more about what it’s like to work at Boston Metal and check out our open positions.

Supply Chain Specialist Elizabeth Fromhein and Inert Anode Program Engineer Daniel Wright inspect alloy development equipment

Watch to learn a little more about our Inert Anode Program

About Boston Metal

Boston Metal is commercializing Molten Oxide Electrolysis (MOE), a tonnage metals technology platform powered by electricity, to decarbonize steelmaking and transform how metals are made. MOE provides the metals industry with a scalable, cost-competitive and green solution for the production of steel and high-value metals from a variety of feedstocks and iron ore grades. Backed by visionary investors and led by a world-class team, Boston Metal is headquartered in Woburn, Massachusetts and has a wholly owned subsidiary in Brazil.

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