Tata Steel licenses Ohio State's revolutionary Redox energy recovery system

Ohio State Chemical Engineering Distinguished University Professor LS Fan
Ohio State Chemical Engineering Distinguished University Professor LS Fan

The Ohio State University's groundbreaking Redox Energy Recovery (RER) system Developed by Distinguished University Professor and C. John Easton Professor of Chemical Engineering L.-S. Fan has been exclusively licensed to Tata Steel, the 10th largest steel producer in the world, offering revolutionary technology for generating sustainable hydrogen.

Tata Steel's manufacturing and downstream operations span multiple countries, including India, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Thailand. The technology utilizes energy from off-gases in steel production to generate sustainable hydrogen, thereby mitigating the industry's carbon footprint.

Traditionally, steel production heavily relies on fossil fuels, such as coal and natural gas, producing significant amounts of off-gases, including CO2, CO, H2, H2O, N2, and other components. These off-gases are typically released into the atmosphere through combustion, which is used for heat recovery or power generation. The RER system harnesses the reduction potential from off-gases to generate sustainable and low-energy-intensive hydrogen. This innovation was made possible after years of research by Professor Fan.

“This licensing partnership with Tata Steel presents a tremendous opportunity for the commercial application of the chemical looping platform technology in the steel-making industry,” said Fan. “The versatility of chemical looping technology allows for improved efficiency in the iron-making process, with a focus on achieving decarbonization. This technology's application can vary depending on the level of decarbonization required, and its unique ability to integrate into the operation of existing plants makes it an exciting and viable decarbonized iron-making process.”

The RER system uses Ohio State's proprietary iron-based oxygen carriers (OCs) in specially designed reactors to harness the reduction potential of the waste gas stream and generate valuable energy. These OCs facilitate the oxidation of reducing components, such as H2 and CO, in the off-gas, resulting in their reduction to a lower oxidation state. The reduced OCs are then regenerated through steam oxidation, replenishing the lost lattice oxygen while generating hydrogen (H2). The RER technology offers flexibility in reaction schemes and reactor configurations, as depicted in the schematic of the RER technology. The oxygen carrier demonstrates remarkable robustness, recyclability, and reactivity.

Tata Stell Licensed RER Technology

“We challenge all of our researchers to apply innovation to problems of consequence,” said College of Engineering Dean Ayanna Howard. “Professor Fan’s incredible work at the intersection of chemical engineering and sustainability epitomizes this ambition. I believe that he and his team are just scratching the surface of this technology’s green energy potential.”

One of the notable advantages of the RER system is its seamless integration into existing steel production processes with minimal modifications to plant infrastructure. By utilizing the proprietary oxygen carrier, hydrogen can be produced from off-gases. This sustainable and cost-effective solution can reduce the fossil fuel demand of steel production, thereby reducing its environmental impact.

“Professor Fan and his research team represent the brilliant researchers we have at Ohio State who produce innovations with the potential to transform industries," said Kevin Taylor, Senior Associate Vice President of Technology Commercialization at The Ohio State University. "The Technology Commercialization Office partnered with Professor Fan and his team to transfer this technology to Tata Steel for commercialization in their industry. Through our license to Tata Steel, the technology is well-positioned to positively impact greenhouse gas emissions in a critical industry. The research we do at Ohio State matters, and our incredible researchers are changing the world for the better."

Ohio State Chemical Engineering Distinguished University Professor LS Fan and Team
Professor LS Fan and members of his research team developed technology to decrease carbon emissions generated during steel production by using chemical looping to generate hydrogen from the waste gases produced. The H2 generated can then be integrated back into the production process. The technology was licensed exclusively by Tata Steel, the 10th largest steel producer in the world.

Professor Fan's team consisting of graduate research associates, post docs and research engineers helped with the realization of the technology by conducting experiments and performing process simulations and techno-economic feasibility analyses. The team also worked with engineers at Tata to explain the technology and how it can be implemented as part of the licensing agreement.  

The wider impact of the RER technology is significant, considering that steel production accounts for approximately 7-9% of global CO2 emissions, making it one of the leading contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. By implementing this technology, the generated hydrogen can supplement fuel demand as well as replace coke, which is also used as a reductant in the ironmaking process. The licensing and commercialization of the RER technology present a substantial opportunity for achieving cleaner steel production and advancing sustainable technology in the future.

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