What is an Electric Arc Furnace (EAF)?
Unlike the more primitive blast furnace, the electric arc furnace uses an electric arc to heat metals rather than induction from a secondary heat source. An electric arc is an electrical breakdown of a gas that produces electrical discharge between two electrodes with a large heat by-product. Electric arc reactions can take place on several scales and are used for everything from lighting to welding. Electric arc furnaces make an arc between electrodes and charged metals within the furnace to melt the metals. Industrial electric arc furnaces can produce temperatures up to 1,800 Celsius and over 3,000 Celsius in laboratory conditions.
What are the advantages?
An electric arc furnace’s main advantage is the improved efficiency compared to a blast furnace. The EAF doesn’t require large amounts of fuel for combustion or the continuous addition of coke to the molten metal to achieve high purities. This allows steel to be made from 100% scrap material rather than virgin steelmaking from ores, which is much less energy intensive.
The EAF also is a self-contained system which operates on a much smaller footprint not needing a secondary heating source. This means the system can also be scaled down to produce mini-mills where a blast furnace would never be feasible.
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