Whoever said that the steel industry is dead? It is alive and flourishing, this time with an efficiency and environmental cleanliness that will make the semiconductor industry proud! The renaissance is not local, limited to a few developed economies, but global, based on innovations in iron and steel technology and on technology spillover from other areas. The appetite for steel has not decreased: Developing economies such as China and India need millions of tons to build their inadequate and overstretched infrastructure, and the developed countries demand new steels with superior properties for applications in areas previously reserved for other materials. Today the global production of steel is assessed not by mere tonnages but by their quality.
A major attraction of the iron and steel industry is its compatibility with the materials cycle: Iron and steel scrap has become the new raw material, curtailing the global hunger for newly mined iron ores. In a sense, this recycling is an atonement of the excesses of the earlier decades when mining and metallurgical industries paid little attention to energy efficiency and environmental protection. Experts now agree that these and increasing competition from other materials drove the industry to its near extinction. How real then is this renaissance and what are the technology drivers for the growth? Will steel regain its pride of place among materials used by society? In the following article, Alan Cramb reviews the spectacular growth of this industry and predicts an exciting future for it. Silicon, it seems, is not eliminating steel from our materials consciousness!