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813
IRON AND STEEL


In the upper part of the furnace the carbonic oxide deoxidizes the iron oxide of the ore by such reactions as xCO-i-FeOa-Fe+xCO2. Part of the resultant carbonic acid is again deoxidized to carbonic oxide by the surrounding fuel, CO2-I-C =2CO, and the carbonic oxide thus formed deoxidizes more' iron oxide, &c. As indicated in fig. 7, before the iron ore has descended very far it has given up nearly the whole of its oxygen, and thus lost its power of oxidizing the rising carbonic oxide, so that from here down the atmosphere of the furnace consists essentially of carbonic oxide and nitrogen.

But the transfer of heat from the rising gases to the sinking solids, which has been going on in the upper part of the furnace, continues as the solid column gradually sinks downward to the hearth, till at the “fusion level ” (A in fig. 7) the solid matter has become so hot that the now deoxidized iron melts, as does the slag as fast as it is formed by the union of its three constituents, the gangue, the lime resulting from the decomposition of the limestone and the ash of the fuel. Hence from this level down the only solid matter is the coke, in lumps which are burning rapidly and hence shrinking, while between them the molten iron and slag trickle, somewhat as sketched in Hg. 8, to collect in the hearth in two layers as distinct as water and oil, the iron below, the slag above.

As they collect, the molten iron is drawn off at intervals through a hole A (fig. 8), temporarily stopped with clay, at the very bottom, and the slag through another hole a little higher up, called the “ cinder notch.” Thus the furnace may be said to have four zones, those of (1) deoxidation, (2) heating, (3) melting, and (4) collecting, though of course the heating is really going on in all four of them.

In its slow descent the deoxidized iron nearly saturates itself with carbon, of which it usually contains between 3-5 and 4%, taking it in part from the fuel with which -it is in such intimate contact, and in part from the finely divided carbon deposited within the very lumps of ore, by the reaction 2CO= C+CO2. This carburizing is an indispensable part of the process, because through it alone can the iron be made fusible enough to melt at the temperature which can be generated in the furnace, and only when liquid can it be separated readily and completely from the slag. In fact, the molten iron is heated so far above its melting point that, instead of being run at once into pigs as is usual, it may, without solidifying, be carried even several miles in large clay-lined ladles to the mill where it is to be converted into steel.

65. The fucl has, in addition to its duties of deoxidizing and carburizing the iron and yielding the heat needed for melting both the iron and slag, the further task of desulphurizing the iron, probably by the reaction FeS+CaO+C==Fe+CaS-l-CO. The desulphurizing effect of this transfer of the sulphur from union with iron to union with calcium is due to the fact that, whereas iron sulphide dissolves readily in the molten metallic iron, calcium sulphide, in the presence of a slag rich in lime, does not, but by preference enters the slag, which may thus absorb even as much as 3°{, of sulphur. This action is of great importance whether the metal is to be used as cast iron or is to be converted into wrought iron or steel. In the former case there is no later chance to remove sulphur, a minute quantity of which does great harm by leading to the formation of cementite instead of graphite and ferrite, and thus making the cast-iron castings too hard to be cut to exact shape with steel tools; in the latter case the converting or purifying processes, which are essentially oxidizing ones, though they remove the other impurities, carbon, silicon, phosphorus and manganese, are not well adapted to desulphurizing, which needs rather deoxidizing conditions, so as to cause the formation of calcium sulphide, than oxidizing ones.

66. The duty of lhe limestone (CaCO3) is to furnish enough lime to form with the gangue of the ore and the ash of the fuel a lime silicate or slag of such a composition (1) that it will melt at the temperature which it reaches at about level A, of fig. 7, (2) that it will be fluid enough to run out through the cinder notch, and (3) that it will be rich enough in lime to supply that needed for the desulphurizing reaction FeS-l-CaO+C=Fe+CaS-l-CO. In short, its duty is to “flux ”

the gangue and ash, and wash out the sulphur.

67. In order that the slag shall have these properties its composition usually lies between the following limits: silica, 26 to 35 %; lime, , plus 1-4 times the magnesia, 45 to 55 %; alumina, 5 to 20%. Of these the silica and alumina are chiefly those which the gangue of the ore and the ash of the fuel introduce, whereas the lime is that added intentionally to form with these others a slag of the needed physical properties. Thus the more gangue the ore contains, i.e. the poorer it is in iron, the more limestone must in general be added, and hence the more slag results, though of course an ore the gangue of which initially contains much lime and little silica needs a much smaller addition of limestone than one of which the gangue is chiefly silica. Further, the more sulphur there is to remove, the greater must be the quantity of slag needed to dissolve it as calcium sulphide. In smelting the rich Lake Superior ores the quantity of slag made was formerly as small as 28 'Yo of that of the pig iron, whereas in smelting the Cleveland ores of Great Britain it is usually necessary to make as much as 1% tons of slag for each ton of iron.,

68. Shape and Size of the Blast-Furnace.-Large size has here, as in most metallurgical operations, not only its usual advantage of economy of installation, labour and administration per' unit of product, but the further very important one that it lessens the proportion which the outer heat-radiating and hence heat wasting surface bears to the whole. The limits set to the furnace builder's natural desire to make his furnace as large as possible, and its present shape (an obtuse inverted cone set below an acute upright one, both of them truncated), have been reached in part empirically, and in part by reasoning which is open to question, as indeed are the reasons which will now be offered reservedly for both size and shape.

First the width at the tuyeres (fig. 7) has generally been limited to about I2% ft. by the fear that, if it were greater, the blast would penetrate so feebly to the centre that the difference in conditions between centre and circumference would be so great as to cause serious unevenness of working.) Of late furnaces have been built even as wide as 17 ft. in the hearth, and it may prove that a width materially greater than I2% ft. can profitably be used. With the width at the bottom thus limited, the furnace builder naturally tries to gain volume as rapidly as possible by flaring or “ battering ” his walls outwards, i.e. by making the “ bosh ” or lower part of his furnace an inverted cone as obtuse as is consistent with the free descent of the solid charge. In practice a furnace may be made to work regularly if its boshes make an angle of between 730 and 76° with the horizontal, and we may assume that one element of this regularity is the regular easy sliding of the charge over this steep slope. A still steeper one not only gives less available room, but actually leads to irregular working, perhaps because it unduly favours the passage of the rising gas along the walls instead of up and through the charge, and thus causes the deoxidation of the central core to lag behind that of the periphery of the column, with the consequence that this central core arrives at the bottom incompletely deoxidized.

In the very swift-running furnaces of the Pittsburg type this outward flare of the boshes ceases at about 12 ft. above the tuyeres, and is there reversed, as in fig. 7, so that the furnace above this is a very acute upright cone, the walls of which make an angle of about 4° with the vertical, instead of an obtuse inverted cone.

In explanation or justification of this it has been said that a much easier descent must be provided above this level than is needed below it. Below this level the solid charge descends easily, because it consists of coke alone or nearly alone, and this in turn because the temperature here is so high as to melt not only the iron now deoxidized and brought to the metallic state, but also the gangue of the ore and the limestone, which here unite to form the molten sla, and run freely down between the lumps of coke. This coke descend gs freely even through this fast-narrowing space, because it is perfectly solid. and dry without a trace of pastiness. But immediately above this level the charge is relatively viscous, because here the temperature has fallen so far that it is now at the melting or formation point of the slag, which therefore is pasty, liable to weld the whole mass together as so much tar would, and thus to obstruct the descent of the charge, or in short to “ scaffold.”

The reason why at this level the walls must form an upright instead of an inverted cone, why the furnace must widen downward

instead of narrowing, is, according to some metallurgists, that this