Steel Cleanliness plays a crucial role in determining steel properties such as toughness, ductility, formability, corrosion resistance and surface quality. The production of clean steel often involves the elimination or chemical and morphological modification of oxide and sulfide inclusions. Along with deteriorating the steel properties, solid inclusions can affect steel castability through nozzle clogging. Nozzle clogging occurs when solid inclusions accumulate in the caster pouring system such as the ladle shroud or submerged entry nozzle (SEN). Thus, it is important to understand how to achieve desired inclusion characteristics (shape, size and chemistry) through the steelmaking process.
Among the various practices adopted in industries to counteract the effect of solid inclusions, modification of solid inclusions to liquid or partially liquid state through calcium treatment is one of the methods. Calcium can be used because it has a strong ability to form oxides and sulfides. In Al-killed steels, the most common inclusions are alumina (Al2O3) inclusions, which are solid at steelmaking temperatures. On calcium treatment, solid alumina inclusions are converted to calcium aluminates, which have liquidus temperatures lower than steelmaking temperature (1600°C) . It has been found that alumina inclusions may contain some MgO and such inclusions are termed alumina magnesia spinels (Al2O3.xMgO) . These spinels are more stable than alumina and it has been suggested that they might be more difficult to modify . But, some authors have proposed that MgO can actually help in the liquefaction of inclusions, and have demonstrated successful modification of spinels by Ca treatment [20, 21].
In the present research, the mechanism of transformation of alumina and spinel inclusions upon calcium treatment was studied by characterizing transient evolution of inclusions. A vacuum induction was used for melting, making additions (Al, Al-Mg and CaSi2) and sampling. The samples were characterized for inclusion shape, size and chemistry through scanning electron microscopy (SEM). Automated inclusion analysis tools (like ASCAT [59, 91, 92], INCA-GSR ; Please refer section 6.4., page number 68) were employed to generate statistical information of the inclusions. Thermodynamic database software FACTSAGE  was used to determine thermochemistry of reactions, ternary phase diagrams (Ca-Al-S and Ca-Al-Mg systems). The compositions of the inclusions were tracked before and after calcium treatment to determine the effectiveness of calcium treatment. Extraction of inclusions through dissolution of iron in bromine-methanol solution was employed to reveal 3-D geometry of inclusions and analyze inclusions through EDS (Energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy) without any matrix effects. Various industrial samples were also analyzed to confirm the feasibility of various reaction mechanisms deduced through experiments.
Successful modification of alumina and spinel inclusions by calcium was demonstrated [85, 86]. It was observed that these modification mechanisms proceed through transient phase (CaO, CaS) formation. In the case of spinels, preferential reduction of MgO part was also observed during calcium modification of spinels. The magnesium after MgO reduction by calcium can enter back into the melt or leave the melt in vapor form. The inclusion area fraction decreased after calcium treatment, but the inclusion concentration (number of inclusions per cm2) increased because inclusions shifted to a smaller size distribution after calcium treatment. Severe matrix effects during EDS analysis of inclusions were observed, due to which inclusion composition analyses can be significantly affected.
*Please refer to dissertation for footnotes.