Basic oxygen furnace slag (BOFS) is a by-product of steelmaking of which about 10.4 Mt are produced annually in the EU. BOFS is mostly used in road construction, earthwork and hydraulic engineering. However, in this use, the iron bound in BOFS is lost and the opportunity to produce higher value products from BOFS is forgone.
In recent decades, many researchers have investigated the production of both Portland cement clinker and crude iron from BOFS via a thermochemical reductive treatment. The reductive treatment of liquid BOFS causes a reduction of iron oxides to metallic iron, which separates from the mineral phase due to its higher density and can be recovered. An advantage of this process is that simultaneously the chemical composition of the reduced BOFS is adapted to that of Portland cement clinker and the hydraulic reactive mineral alite (Ca3SiO5) is formed.
In this study, German BOFS was reduced in a small-scale electric arc furnace and a low-iron mineral product rich in alite was produced. Despite a chemical and mineralogical composition similar to that of Portland cement clinker, the reduced BOFS produced less heat of hydration, and its reaction was delayed compared to Portland cement. However, adding gypsum accelerated the hydration rate of the reduced BOFS.
Further research to improve the hydraulic properties of the reduced BOFS is essential. If successful, the production of a hydraulic material and crude iron from BOFS could have economic and ecological benefits for both the cement and steel industry.