Refractories here and there, West and East | The American Ceramic Society

Refractories here and there, West and East

Credit: Capital Refractories.

I am currently in Missouri at the St. Louis Section/Refractory Ceramics Division 47th Annual Symposium that runs through March 24, 2011.

The organizers, who include people such as Mary Reidmeyer (Missouri S&T), James Hemrick (Oak Ridge National Lab), Dave Tucker (CE Minerals) and Ben Markel (Resco Products), put together a stellar schedule that includes presentations from Dale Zacherl from Almatis, Rajan Srinivasacharya from Momentive Specialty Chemicals, Xiaoyong Xiong from Imerys-Damrec, Jeff Smith from Missouri S&T and Victor Carlos Pandolfelli from Brazil’s Universidade Federal de Sao Carlos.

At lunch, the St. Louis Section will honor The Refractories Institute’s Rob Crolius with the T.J. Planje Award, named in recognition of the contribution to the former dean of what years ago was called Missouri School of Mines and Metallurgy, the precursor to Missouri S&T.

While the ACerS groups’ refractories symposium has racked up nearly 50 years of recognizing cutting edge research and academic—industry partnerships, it was just pointed out to me that, coincidentally, China will be holding its 1st International Refractory Production and Application Conference May 10-12, 2011 in Guangzhou.

China’s refractory efforts are worth monitoring. Clearly, at lot of refractories attention is going to be aimed at that nation’s steel industry and basic metal production. But, at the risk of sounding like I am repeating myself, it is worth remembering that the Chinese Academy of Science recently announced its goal of transforming its status from world participant to world leader.

Indeed, one of the leading topics at the China’s first refractories conference will be the “status and outlook into the development during the 12th Five-year Plan period [2011-2016] of China’s refractories industry.”

Aside from applications such as blast furnaces, continuous casters, high power electric arc furnaces, etc., organizers of the conference say they intend to also cover refractories for non-ferrous metals, cement, glass and ceramic industries, plus green, monolithic, low-carbon and non-carbon refractories.

The lesson, perhaps, is that the West must not get so wrapped up in the thrill of the more whiz-bang, high tech ceramics and glass sectors that it forgets about the fundamental work that must continue in the refractories field. China, India, Russia are poised to be challengers in world markets and world research. Refractories R&D needs to be vigorously supported in the United States, Europe and South America in order for it to continue to contend with investments and commitments being made elsewhere.