31 July 2023
Corporate News

“We’ve got more technology than NASA”

Port Talbot Hot Mill

Tata Steel UK features heavily in a new book by Sky News’ Ed Conway, called ‘Material World – a substantial story of our past and our future’ 

Writing about six materials that are key to the modern world, Iron (and inevitably steel as part of that story) sits proudly alongside Sand, Salt, Copper, Oil and Lithium in Ed’s book, which has been described as “A compelling narrative of the human story”, ad “A stunning book that will transform the way you think.”

"The steel industry…is about to undergo its biggest transformation since the age of Henry Bessemer.”

It was Ed’s first visit to Tata steel’s Port Talbot works—while he was conducting research for his book—that inspired his next visit to record a mini-documentary for Sky News: ‘Do we need a steel industry in the UK anymore?’

The 12 minute programme, which also included a visit to Tata Steel’s Steelpark service centre in Wolverhampton, proved a hit for the channel and has since has over 18,000 views on YouTube.

In the section about iron, Ed reflects on his visit to Port Talbot with a chapter entitled ‘Inside the volcano’, saying:

‘It looks like lava,’ I thought out loud.
‘It is lava’ said my guide. And this, it struck me, is surely part of the marvel, the romance of steel. In making it we are melting rock; humans are creating lava.

Further into the chapter, Ed talks more about the incredible science behind the steel, quoting Tata Steel’s Head of Product Management & Development Laura Baker who joined him at the site’s rolling mills. She said: “We’ve got more technology out there than NASA. We’re running stuff through the (Cold) mill at 1,000 metres a minute. We’re controlling the thickness to 0.05mm while running at those speeds. We can make thinner steels than ever before.” And talking about the metallurgical changes that are taking place, Laura added “This is a form of nano technology”

Concluding the chapter, Ed says: “…for all the advanced manufacturing and nanotechnology going on down there, it was still hard not to conclude that this place was a relic of the past. And, in a sense, that’s precisely what is was. Because the steel industry…is about to undergo its biggest transformation since the age of Henry Bessemer.”

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