Steel production is an industry that is traditionally researched by engineers and material scientists. Nippon Steel strongly believed that mathematics could add to their understanding of the complex relationship between the operational factors of the steel plant, the crystalline structures, and the mechanical properties of the steel produced from the plant.
The Smith Institute organised two workshops. The first was an in-house workshop over 3 days at the Nippon Steel Research Centre near Kimitsu Works, one of the largest steel plants in the world, where Nippon Steel and the Smith Institute worked with academics to identify several sub-problems that could be tackled at the second workshop. The second workshop, held in the UK and hosted by the Smith Institute, brought together mathematicians and material scientists from Australia, United States, Germany, China, Japan and the UK to bring to light the latest techniques and models relevant to the steel making questions being discussed.
The second workshop focused on two themes. The first theme looked at mathematical models and extensions to such models of crystal growth in steel. The idea of this theme was to investigate the relationship between the operational factors of the steel plant with the microstructures in steel.
The second theme looked at different techniques to model the mechanical properties of the steel, such as yield stress and maximum tensile strength, when given the underlying microstructure of the steel. These techniques, known collectively as homogenisation techniques, have different strengths and weaknesses which the workshop participants explored
The Smith Institute helped Nippon Steel to tackle difficult problems in the steel industry by bringing together mathematicians and material scientists from across the world. This has introduced the company to new mathematical models and people, both of which would have otherwise remained unknown to them.
Nippon Steel knows that mathematics is a very powerful language that can describe the essence of problems. The Smith Institute helped us create a bridge between problems and science. The extended models developed at the workshop are being explored further at Nippon Steel.Junichi NakagawaChief Researcher at the Advanced Technology Research Centre at Nippon Steel Corporation