Recently, Elkem’s R&D Technical Center marked the 75th anniversary of its pilot plant with an event involving customers, research partners and government officials. At the event, the staff and management looked back at many of their achievements.
From pig iron smelting to carbothermic aluminium production
In the early years, the development of a process for electric pig iron smelting was an important achievement of Elkem, having undergone pilot scale testing at the pilot plant in Kristiansand. Another achievement was the development of a technology for the production of high-grade ferronickel from lateritic nickel ores. This process is still the dominant technique for the production of ferronickel from laterite.
Over the last decade, the main technological achievement stemming from the Elkem Technical Center has been the development of an energy-efficient metallurgical process to produce solar grade silicon. This process uses 75% less energy than conventional techniques. At the 75 year anniversary event, Geir Ausland, head of Elkem Solar gave the pilot plant credit: - Elkem Technology deserves a great deal of the honour for the making the industrialisation of the Elkem Solar Silicon® process possible.
An ongoing process is the development of a technology for carbothermic aluminium production. This work is done for long-term partner Alcoa and Elkems technology staff have been involved since the very beginning. Today, the process is owned by Alcoa and the pilot testing has been moved to the Lista plant.
Labs and pilot facilities now open to external customers
Elkem’s Technical Center’s core competence lies in high temperature processes, electric arc furnace processing and metallurgical processes. Over the years, Elkem has established close relations with some of the world’s most profiled research centres for high temperature processing.
In recent years, and with the appearance of more specialised products, product testing for customers and research services have gained importance. These services are also open for customers outside of Elkem and many of the current customers and partners participated in the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Pilot plant.
Today, the staff of Elkem R&D Technical Centre consists of 59 people. Gro Eide is the head of the centre. She says the combination of experienced staff, industrial scale pilot facilities together with workshops and analytical laboratories make this centre unique in a global context.
“There is quite some interest from external customers, giving the centre new possibilities for future projects. The center is a strategic asset for Elkem’s technological development. Continous development is urgent to stay competitive in the market. There has been significant positive feedback on our signals of opening the doors for external customers and possible project partners. Due to earlier experience, we believe this might also lead to new business opportunities for Elkem and further development of our core competence.”
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