Another issue is redesigning steel mills to accommodate electrolysis. Fray said blast furnace reactions take place in three dimensions, while electrolytic cell reactions occur in effectively two dimensions. The challenge, then, is to design an electrolysis steel plant that isn't much bigger than a conventional facility.
In his article, Fray also suggested that metal electrolysis could be used to produce oxygen on other planets, "making human colonization of the Solar System more feasible."
Researchers are now working on scaling up electric metal production. Sadoway said a demonstration plant is still about three years away, but the systems would be analogous to cells used to extract aluminum.
He acknowledged it will be hard and time-consuming to bring these radical changes to one of the most iconic industries in the world built on centuries of knowledge, noting his own two decades of research in liquid metals. "People who want instant gratification, they don't work in this area," he said.
Correction: Forty percent of global steel ends up traded, not exported, correcting an earlier version of this story.
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500