The European Green Deal aims to address the existential threat of climate change and environmental degradation by transforming the EU into a modern, resource-efficient, and competitive economy. It sets ambitious goals, including achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, decoupling economic growth from resource use, and ensuring inclusive progress leaving no one and nothing behind.

It outlines a transformative shift towards a climate-neutral continent by 2050, with member states committed to reducing emissions by at least 55% by 2030. This initiative promises various benefits, including opportunities for innovation, investment, and green jobs creation.

The green transition presents a major opportunity for European industry by creating markets for clean technologies and products. For this reason, the Green Industrial Plan was introduced to boost Europe´s net zero industry and to accelerate the transition to climate neutrality. To secure Europe’s place as the home of industrial innovation and clean tech, massive investments must be made in funding research and innovation.

Driving European R&I to Accelerate the Roll-out of Strategic and Sustainable Tech Deployment

Horizon Europe is the EU’s key funding programme for research and innovation (R&I). To step up the technological developments, the EU has invested 40 billion in R&I for the European Green deal. EU investments in these fields play a pivotal role in fostering the development of technologies that support the growth of more sustainable industrial value chains through Europe.

One such initiative, the ReSoURCE project, has attracted significant attention due to its potential impact on industry transformation and revolutionary advancements in refractory recycling. With the capacity of broader application beyond its initial scope, the project holds promise for revolutionizing recycling processes in the industry.

Given the high carbon intensity of the refractory industry, reducing CO2 emissions is crucial. The utilization of secondary raw materials presents an opportunity to mitigate impact, particularly by reducing extractive processing in raw materials mines. Through innovative recycling methods of spent refractories, substantial CO2 savings can be achieved. However, enhancing the efficiency of recycling processes requires the development of new technologies, particularly in automated sorting solutions.

The ReSoURCE consortium is actively engaged in innovating the full process chain of refractory recycling with AI-supported multi sensor sorting equipment as its core technology. Through these efforts, ReSoURCE contributes to advancing circular economy principles and supporting the transition to a more sustainable industrial landscape.

ReSoURCE will join the EU Missions and cross-cutting activities info days to gain more insights on how our project can further contribute. If you are interested in funding opportunities helping to reach the EU mission goals in the areas of climate and the environment and would like to contribute bringing concrete solutions to some of the greatest challenges facing our society, then join this event on April 25-26. The event aims to inform potential applicants about the new topics included in the EU Missions and Cross-cutting Activities work programme 2024.

 

Author´s Portrait

Sofia Iriarte

Sofia is project ReSoURCE´s Science Communicator. She studied Advertising and Public Relations and has a MSc in Communication Science from the University of Vienna. Currently, she is part of the Innovation Management team and Global Communications at RHI Magnesita.

 

We use a variety of different analysis methods in our project, which we would like to introduce to you in this format. After presenting the XRF analysis method in the last article of this series, we would now like to introduce you to the scanning electron microscope (SEM). SEM is a powerful tool used in scientific research and industry to measure the chemistry of points of interest, examine the surface of materials at high magnification or to create element distribution maps of a sample. It works by using a beam of electrons to scan the surface of a sample, producing detailed images that reveal the structure and composition of the material.

Similar to XRF, the elemental analysis of the SEM also works with energy dispersive X-ray spectra, also known as EDX. In brief: A mineral grain of interest is bombarded with electrons; an electron close to the core is knocked out of its position; the gap is filled by an electron from a higher orbital and must release energy when changing position, this energy is element-specific. This allows researchers to identify the elements present in the sample and determine their relative concentrations.

We use this method in environmental and waste mineralogy. For example, it is used to analyse the distribution of pollutants in mineral waste or to test individual mineral grains for their pollutant content. With the SEM results, we can also determine minerals, and subsequently estimate whether pollutants are firmly bound and therefore immobile or less firmly bound and therefore mobile. This important finding supports us, in the search for new alternative applications of the analysed material.

However, since pollutants do not play a role in spent refractory materials, we have focused on those elements that can directly hinder the further recycling of spent refractories. With SEM, we have created so-called element distribution maps (Figure 1, right). By evaluating these maps, we can make statements about the distribution of elements that might hinder the further recycling process like potassium (K). Other than that, we can also have a look on the distribution of recycling mineral phases and determine their size, their chemical content as well as their intergrowth structures. This helps us to optimise the recycling process.

ReSoURCE Florian Feucht - Montanuni Leoben

Author´s Portrait

Florian Feucht

DI Florian Feucht, is research associate at the Chair of Waste Management and Waste Treatment at the Montanuniversitaet Leoben, and part of the Workgroup: “Environmental remediation and mineral waste”. Since 2023 he participates in the Montanuniversitaet’s PhD Program. From 2018 to 2023 he studied “applied geoscience” at the Montanuniversitaet Leoben and wrote his master thesis about “Chemical-Mineralogical Characterization of Ladle Slag from voestalpine Linz”. From 2014 to 2018 he studied at the University of Vienna Earth Sciences and wrote a bachelor thesis on the subject: “Petrological and Petrographical Ínvestigation of Mafic-, Ultramafic Rocks from the Dunkelsteinerwald, Gföhler Unit, Moldanubic” Florian’s research interests are chemical-mineralogical characterisation of mineral wastes, Mineralogy, Slag mineralogy, Recycling and Waste Management.

How can we reach climate neutrality, secure raw materials, and maintain a good quality of life on our planet for future generations? One thing is clear: we need to shift from a linear resource-intensive economy to a circular one. This is crucial for Europe to achieve carbon-neutrality by 2050, where society as a whole and stakeholders are embracing the “closing the loop approach”.

The circular economy approach is an enabler of economic growth and development while simultaneously reducing carbon emissions and achieving the green transition. It aims at a zero-waste life cycle of products and hence the preservation of natural resources. Translated into the field of refractories, this implies the extensive reuse of refractory materials that have already been in operation.

For every tonne of recycled refractory material that is re-used, approximately 1.5 tonnes of CO2 emissions are avoided compared to the processing of virgin raw materials. Furthermore, recycling refractory materials prevents waste disposal, reintegrates secondary raw materials into the economy, and diminishes reliance on virgin raw materials.

However, recycling spent refractories poses several challenges. From sourcing to processing and utilization, various obstacles must be overcome. Among several challenges that are faced, the sorting and cleaning stage is particularly demanding. Sorting the various products is crucial for attaining the required chemical composition to either repurpose the materials in refractories or direct them for additional processing.

Currently, the sorting stage represents the foremost hurdle to overcome, as it predominantly relies on manual operations and the expertise of the workforce to distinguish between different types. Manual sorting is largely dependent on experienced personal to select the material, by relying on color, fracture characteristics, sound upon impact, and density. This poses challenges due to the limited distinction possible with the finite discernment capabilities of human senses.

In light of these obstacles, innovative solutions are required, from sorting during or after dismantling, contaminant removal or stabilization, and fragmentation methods to enhance mineral circularity.  To enable the sorting process´s efficiency, fully automated identification and separation systems is an imperative and a strategic development step. Therefore, Refractory Sorting Using Revolutionizing Classification Equipment (ReSoURCE) project aims to innovate the entire process chain.

The technologies developed for the recycling of spent refractories in ReSoURCE will revolutionize the status quo of spent refractories sorting. By enhancing efficiency in the recycling process, we can reduce up to 800,000 tonnes of landfilling, resulting in significant CO2 savings. Additionally, this initiative will lead to substantial energy savings and will also strengthen Europe´s raw material resilience.

Research and innovation are crucial to offering a pathway towards achieving Europe’s climate neutrality objectives. Through the adoption of circular economy principles and the embrace of innovative solutions, the recycling of raw materials derived from refractories presents a tangible and effective strategy for reducing carbon footprints and advancing sustainability goals.

 

Author´s Portrait

Sofia Iriarte

Sofia is project ReSoURCE´s Science Communicator. She studied Advertising and Public Relations and has a MSc in Communication Science from the University of Vienna. Currently, she is part of the Innovation Management team and Global Communications at RHI Magnesita.

 

On February 5th, after 20 months into the project ReSoURCE, the consortium members had the project review meeting with the project coordinator Susana Xará. The main highlights of the achievements accomplished during the first 18 months of the project were presented. Thanks to the strong commitment and engagement from all consortium members since the proposal phase, we achieved a seamless project initiation from the beginning.

The ReSoURCE project content is divided into 11 work packages and all of them were kicked-off as planned in the proposal. During this period, Material management and Sampling (WP1) was already timely finalized, while the other 10 work packages are still ongoing. Also, 12 deliverables have been successfully submitted. At this stage of the project, a major part of the pre-financing amount has been allocated towards implementing activities throughout this year and a half.

During this stage of the project, two milestones were successfully achieved. The first milestone is the achievement of defining, sourcing, and distributing feedstocks samples. The second milestone was reporting the feedstocks characteristics. Further details can be found in the deliverables published under the Knowledge Vault section.

During the review meeting, the scientific and technical aspects regarding each work package were thoroughly presented:

  • WP1, led by RHIM: Achieved comprehensive feedstock identification and standardization in sampling and sorting, coupled with in-depth industry analysis. The material characterization was carried out by RHIM and MUL. The feasibility of these potential sorting criteria was aligned with the requirements on the sensor systems in close cooperation with NEO, LSA, ILT and INN. To use a higher percentage of the breakout material, RHIM defined preliminary sorting requirements in close cooperation with CPI and SINTEF for alternative usage of the material. This will allow to enhance the efficiency and sustainability impact of automated refractory recycling during exploitation.
  • WP2, led by CPI in cooperation with MUL, RHIM, SINTEF: Successfully completed the base-line assessments and interim reports for both LCA and TEA.
  • WP3, led by MUL together with RHIM and CPI: Conducted a comprehensive waste characterization, complementary to WP1, which offered insights into the leaching behaviour and chemical-mineralogical composition, particularly when considered in conjunction with grain size.
  • WP4 led by MUL working in closely with RHIM, LSA, and SINTEF: Maximising fractions that are suitable for sensor-based sorting was validated with comparing conventional and alternate comminution technologies.
  • WP5, led by LSA in cooperation with ILT, NEO, INN, MUL: Work on all individual components has begun and initial successes include the completion of the Demo A & Demo B lasers (INN), a first test setup for the HSI (NEO) and a first optical spectrometer combination (LSA). NEO manufactured 2 cameras for initial on-site tests at LSA facilities and integration onto Demo A.
  • WP6, led by ILT in close collaboration with NEO, LSA, INN, MUL: Is running investigations for characterisation of the data structures from the individual sensors and classification of material with real sample material.
  • WP7, led by SINTEF together with LSA, RHIM, MUL: Successful initial experiments on direct sorting methods for 0-5 mm refractory leftovers as pretreatment before recycling.
  • WP8, led by LSA in collaboration with RHIM and SINTEF: The requirements for Demo B have been compiled illustrated in an initial prototype design. In addition, Demo A is currently under construction.
  • WP9, led by Crowdhelix: Combining different aspects, ranging from innovative and future-oriented activities, through technical tasks related to clustering with other projects, aiming to prepare the ground and promote new outcomes and developments of the project results. The activities of the work package have been fully implemented in a seamless and productive collaborative environment, providing a solid background for the further development phase, which will be further developed in the project. RHIM in collaboration with CPI, MUL and STEF, is dedicated to the integration of sorted refractory materials into developing alternative materials and products.
  • WP10, led by RHIM: Ensured that all good governance principles are respected while fulfilling the rules and obligation towards the funding agency. Furthermore, the rigorous project monitoring and regular evaluation of the project progress was conducted to ensure success so far.
  • WP11, led by SINTEF working closely together with RHIM, MUL, Crowdhelix: The activities of exploitation, dissemination, and communication is still ongoing. SINTEF and RHIM are responsible for managing and overseeing this strategy, nonetheless all partners are actively involved in showcasing project results and ensure proper participation in relevant events. Among the initiatives that have been successfully achieved during this phase are the website´s launch, the opening of social media accounts (LinkedIn & X), and the creation of 3 project videos posted on the project´s YouTube channel. Furthermore, blogs posts, press releases, and two scientific articles have been published so far. Also, the project has participated in 8 events.

The ReSoURCE project will foster future twin ecological and digital transitions and will affect every part of the refractory industry. The result of this project will be the implementation of new technologies, with investment and innovation to benefit all project partners and the refractory industry. Moreover, the work carried out so far supports the consortium’s ambition in creating significant impact for the refractory industry and the EU regarding CO2 emissions, recycling processes and energy savings.

 

Refractory recycling research project ReSoURCE

Authors Portraits

Alexander Leitner

Alexander studied Material Science at the Montanuniveristät Leoben, focusing on the field of micromechanics and material physics. He joined RHI Magnesita’s Strategic Project and Innovation Team in 2019 and recently joined the business unit Recycling in the field of Recycling Innovation and Technology.

Ramona Oros

Ramona started her career at the Carinthia University of Applied Sciences in 2012 as a researcher and project assistant. She is well familiar with various EU-funded project schemes, and now is the interim project coordinator for ReSoURCE.

 

At the Montanuniversität Leoben we have a new master program: The Erasmus Mundus Joint Master in Sustainable Mineral and Metal Processing Engineering-EMJM PROMISE. The program has been established because we see increasing demands in the quantity and diversity of minerals, metals, and materials as we move towards renewable energy, electromobility, digital communication and other clean-energy technologies.

PROMISE is the consortium involving the cooperation between four leading universities in mineral processing and mining engineering. Aside from our own university, the Montanuniversität Leoben in Austria (MUL), the University of Oulu from Finland (UOULU), University of Zagreb from Croatia (UNIZG), and Universidad Federico Santa Maria from Chile (USM) are partners.

Within the study programme 20 students moved in the Summer Semester 2023 to Leoben to complete their second semester. Besides the lecture, there is one main in the second semester, which is the composing of a project study related to mineral processing.

In this project study the connection between ReSoURCE and PROMISE has shown up. The first week of the semester is the so-called “Welcome Week” in which the project ReSoURCE was introduced to the students at the “Scientific Exchange Day” by myself. The idea of reducing the carbon footprint of RHI Magnesita with building up one of the first automated recycling plants for refractories brought a wide attention to the audience. Furthermore, a detailed introduction into the topic of electrodynamic fragmentation as alternate comminution technology was given.

Within the following weeks the students could gain knowledge to the processing of minerals in lectures and practical work in the technical facility of the Chair of Mineral Processing.

The ReSoURCE topic “The Use of Electrodynamic fragmentation (EDF) for Comminution of Steel Casting Ladle’s Refractory (MgO-C) and Cement Rotary Kiln’s Refractory (Hercynite)” gained the attention of four students, who decided to validate this technology for the comminution of refractories. This group consisted of students from China, Chile, Pakistan and Finland. – a diverse group that brought different fields or expertise, different cultural backgrounds and different perspectives and perceptions together.

After two months of laboratory work and one month for the evaluation and visualization of the results, the project study was finished. The result is that high voltage pulse power fragmentation is a novel route for the comminution to weaken or fully fragment rocks.
At the PROMISE Summer School in June 2023 we presented the results of the ReSoURCE project study. The audience consisted of PROMISE students as well as professors and scientific staff of all the involved universities in the master programme. Our high voltage pulse power fragmentation contribution knocked the socks off the audience – Although the liberation of the comminuted output fractions has to be analyzed in the next step to evaluate the efficiency of the process.

Myself and my colleagues at the Chair of Mineral Processing are looking forward for getting the next PROMISE cohort in the next summer semester. We are glad that one of the students within the ReSoURCE project study decided to come back to Leoben for writing her master thesis in ReSoURCE.

Refractory recycling research project ReSoURCE - Karl Friedrich Montanuniversitaet Leoben

Author’s Portrait

Karl Friedrich

DI Karl Friedrich is research associate at the Chair of Mineral Processing in the area recycling at the Montanuniversitaet Leoben.
Before that he was employed as research associate at the Chair of Waste Processing Technology and Waste Management (area: sensor-based sorting) and the Chair of Economic and Business Management for sustainability management and digitalization.
Since 2018 he participates in the Montanuniversitaet’s PhD Program. The title of his thesis is “Increasing efficiency in sensor-based sorting processes for polymer waste”.

From 2011 to 2017 Karl studied in the Bachelor and Master program “Energy and Environmental Management” at the University of Applied Sciences Burgenland. His elective subjects were “Environmental process engineering” and “Energy engineering and energy economics” and his master thesis belongs to recycling opportunities for glass residues after thermal waste treatment.

Karl’s research interests are Sensor-based Sorting, Mineral Processing, Recycling, Digitalization, Waste Processing, Waste Management, Life Cycle Assessment and Material Flow Analysis.

The year 2023 turned out to be a fantastic year both personally and professionally. In January 2023, we stepped into a new year after successful completion of half project year in 2022. In 2023, we have submitted a total of 9 deliverables and achieved 2 milestones; indeed, it was once again a great journey to work with our consortium members.

Since we had our first deliverable for the year 2023 by end of February, RHI Magnesita’s ReSoURCE team was very busy right from the start of the year in summing up the results for the deliverable. In March 2023, we had a deliverable in communications and it came out very good. In May 2023, we had two deliverables one regarding technical topics and another one from the communication side, both were successfully submitted in May 2023. In September 2023, we had a little delay in handing in one of our deliverables. It was the first time ever that we had a delay in submission since we could not acquire the required number of survey results for the deliverable. Anyhow, we have informed the project officer in advance and the deliverable will be submitted in November together with other 4 deliverables.

As a project coordinator, I was quite busy from Mid of April with arranging the M12 meeting for the consortium by sending emails and coordinating the work package meetings in Porsgrunn. The M12 meeting in Porsgrunn took place from June 12 to 14, 2023. It was very well organized by our consortium partner SINTEF. The whole consortium had great technical discussions and it was wonderful to meet and greet the consortium personally.

On 10th October 2023, we got the official invitation from European commission for the first review meeting in February. Our EU project officer was very kind to accept our choice of location to be Aachen since it is a good location to show the progress of the project at this specific period from our consortium members LSA GmbH and Fraunhofer.

We have started our preparations for the first review meeting from mid of October as we are obliged to report both technically and financially. I have arranged several project managements, deliverable, work package and financial update meetings to check if everything is in right place from October until December 2023. I am confident that we will have effectively prepared and summed up the reports by end of December, so it will be ready to be transferred to the European commission long before January 31, 2023. On November 30th, 2023, we have deadlines for 5 deliverables and each of our consortium partner worked hard to get it done. I’m very happy with the way we progressed in the first 18 months.

As the technical updates goes on, I too have some personal changes update in the team. Carmen Loew, our Communications specialist for ReSoURCE was leaving the company at the end of October 2023 and I am expecting my second baby in February 2024. So, we had to search candidates for both positions in October 2023. It was lot of work, but I really enjoyed the smooth transfer that we have planned in both positions to make the candidates comfortable to take on their new jobs. I congratulate both persons for their new jobs and I hope they will have a great time working in the project ReSoURCE. I will be away for my maternity leave from Dec 16th, 2023, until end of Dec 2024 and will be back to the project ReSoURCE in January 2025. Earlier, I was eagerly waiting for the first review meeting in February 2024; anyhow, God has other plans for me as now I am excitedly waiting for my second baby to arrive in February 2024. I wish you all and especially my consortium members warm and cozy holidays with showers of snow and happiness blooming around the homes 😊.

Saranya Azhaarudeen

Author’s Portrait

Saranya Azhaarudeen

Dr. Saranya Azhaarudeen studied at the Technical University of Denmark and has a PhD in Surface and Coatings Technology. She is Innovation Management Professional at RHI Magnesita and Coordinator for the project ReSoURCE.

ReSoURCE’s main objective is to increase the recycling rate of refractory bricks. Broken-out refractories already have a non-negligible fines content when they are first removed, for example from a steel casting ladle. In further processing, RHI Magnesita crushes them into smaller blocks with a maximum edge length of 120mm, to be sortable by the new equipment. These single grains are sorted with the so-called Demonstrator A, which is also developed and evaluated during the project. The crushed bricks are then screened to minimize dust generation and contamination during the sorting process. In each individual step, fine particles are thus created. During the ReSoURCE project, we speak of fines at grain sizes smaller than 5mm.

Demonstrator B (Demo B), which we consider in this post, is designed to process these fines, and contribute to an enrichment of the desired material classes. Demo B can be seen as a scientific approach to enrichment rather than an industrial facility. Its purpose is to analyze and evaluate the handling and sorting of fine parts in a sorting plant. All modules of the plant are designed in such a way that they can be interchanged in their sequence. This allows the material flow to be tested in different configurations of the plant, to find the optimal setup for a later industrial approach.

In the sketch a first preliminary design of the setup is shown: The fines that are generated during the above-mentioned process steps are collected in a hopper (1). With the help of a pump (2) an air flow is generated which transports the fines through the system. During this process, the fine parts pass-through various stations.

First, the chemical composition of the different grains will be examined as a bulk by a measuring system (3) using Laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) provided by LSA. With LIBS, the chemical composition of a material can be analyzed in a contact-free and non-destructive manner. After analyzing the composition, the sorting of the fines can start. The sorting can be distinguished in two different types of sorting methods, direct sorting (4) and mechanical sorting measurement (5). Direct sorting in this application means, a sorting based on physical or chemical parameters and requires no additional sensor in advance.

Examples for the direct sorting modules could be a vibrating table classifier, that separates smaller from bigger grains by feed them through holes with different sizes. Mechanical sorting method could be implemented by using a mechanical flap, that divides the fines-flow into two different collecting bins, corresponding to the chemical composition. The sorting methods are developed and tested by SINTEF. If you want to learn more about SINTEF’s work, check the blogpost Powder Classification.

The sorted material is finally conveyed into collecting bins and can be processed further by RHI Magnesita.

Refractory recycling research project ReSoURCE

Author’s Portrait

Carsten Coenen

Carsten Coenen is a development engineer at LSA – Laser Analytical Systems & Automation GmbH (Germany). He is working on the mechanical design and the implementation of high-precision 3D-printed parts for use in optical modules. Since 2022 he has been working at LSA. Previously, he completed an apprenticeship as an electronics technician at RWTH Aachen University and received his B.Eng. Mechatronics and M.Sc. Mechatronics from FH Aachen University of Applied Sciences.

During his studies, he already worked as a working student at RWTH Aachen University and at AGVR GmbH (Germany). Since he joined LSA, he has also been involved in EU projects (e.g. REVaMP and ReSoURCE).

Julio Hernandez and Dennis Adamek from Norsk Elektro Optikk, Oslo (NO) came to visit RHI Magnesitas’ researchers in Leoben (AT) to help install a complete hyperspectral imaging setup and train the colleagues in Leoben in how to obtain high quality hyperspectral imagery.

As you might recall from earlier blogposts (see for example the blogpost from Friederike Koerting: Our Samples in the Light of Science), hyperspectral imaging is a technique that can detect spectral information with high resolution (typically several hundreds of narrow, contiguous spectral bands) for each pixel in an image, allowing for the identification of specific materials or substances based on their unique spectral signatures. Hyperspectral images can reveal intricate details about the composition and characteristics of the imaged objects or scenes.

The system that was installed in Leoben carries both the HySpex VNIR-1800 and the SWIR-384 cameras, which, when combined, allow to record spectral information from 400-2500nm, covering the visible, near infrared and short-wave infrared spectral regions. Samples are illuminated by two strong halogen lamps that provide light across the complete spectral range. The spectral distribution of the light reflected from the samples depends on the chemical characteristics of the material. As such, it contains information on the composition of the samples and can be used to identify specific properties. The cameras used for collecting this reflected signal are line-scanner imaging spectrometers capable of orderly diffracting a broadband input light signal and map it onto a digital sensor. Spatial and spectral information is acquired simultaneously from a linear section of the imaging area, and either movement of the camera with respect to the samples or vice versa provides the second spatial dimension for forming a 2D image with spectral information stored in the third dimension of a 3D digital array.

With this lab setup the researchers at RHI Magnesita will be able to scan lots of samples during the next months and collect large amounts of data on the different kinds of refractory materials investigated in this project. On a controlled data set also reference measurements like XRF or Micro-XRF will be performed that will serve as a ground truth to validate the hyperspectral data. Subsequently we will use all these measurements to train classification and quantification models that will be able to deliver information like brick type, composition or potential contamination of previously unknown samples, enabling automation of the refractory recycling process the ReSoURCE project is aiming at.

During the two days of this visit the team had fruitful discussions about refractory material characteristics, hyperspectral imaging best practices and strategies to distinguish certain refractory material types based on material-specific spectral features. Time allowed to start scanning and investigating selected used refractory brick material samples from both cement rotary kilns and steel casting ladles. The samples were prepared in form of brick slices and irregular breakout material chunks to account for different sample geometries. The high carbon content and thus dark color of the steel casting ladle bricks were challenging to scan this time as only a white reference panel was available for testing, which quickly saturates at camera integration times that are necessary to obtain enough reflected light from these samples. Reference panels are used to calibrate the hyperspectral images to true reflectance to provide absolute measurements and inter-comparability between different hyperspectral systems or other spectroscopic instruments. Within the next week the RHI Magnesita team will get suitable darker reference panels as well to account for various brightness of the investigated refractory samples. The higher brightness of the cement rotary kiln brick samples, however, made it easy to obtain high quality images. An interesting feature of these kinds of bricks is the type of spinel included in the brick matrix. The spinel material is not susceptible to infiltration and contamination during the burning processes, so an interesting experiment will be to see if the spinel type can be used as a marker in the recycling decision process.

We are looking forward to further discussions as soon as more data is available and hope that the experiments performed by the colleagues at RHI Magnesita will clarify brick sorting criteria and help build reliable and accurate models to improve refractory material recycling and reach the goals of the ReSoURCE project.

Also, our project partners from Montan-University Leoben (AT) are invited to take part in the experiments and get hands-on experience with the system now installed in Leoben.

Julio Hernandez - ReSoURCE

Author’s Portrait

Julio Hernandez

Julio Hernandez, MSc, is a senior research scientist at Norsk Elektro Optikk AS with over 15 years of experience in the field of hyperspectral imaging. Julio has worked developing scientific-grade hyperspectral cameras and data acquisition systems for a variety of applications within remote sensing, defense, industry and biomedical research. He is currently Manager of the Hyperspectral Applications department at HySpex, focused on developing customized solutions for end-users and promoting the adoption of hyperspectral technologies in new markets. Julio studied Physics at the Autonomous National University of Mexico (Mexico) and Nanotechnology at Chalmers University of Technology (Sweden) with specialization in quantum information systems.

Dennis Adamek - ReSoURCE

Author’s Portrait

Dennis Adamek

Dennis Adamek, MSc, is an application specialist at HySpex/Norsk Elektro Optikk AS, focusing on enabling hyperspectral imaging technology for industrial applications. Within the ReSoURCE project he is supporting experiment design, hyperspectral system installations and hyperspectral data analysis. He holds a master’s degree in physics from Friedrich-Schiller University Jena, Germany, with a specialization in optics, photonics and spectroscopic data analysis.

When we started our project, I was very aware that most scientists are not professional communicators and are not necessarily comfortable interacting with media representatives. It has been one of the major themes throughout my professional life. There are many reasons for this, but there is one aspect that I have always found particularly sad: scientists, who are known for always being as precise as possible, are often afraid of being misunderstood. They are afraid that what they say will be twisted and end up being so far from what they wanted to say that they sometimes even feel ashamed of news articles about their work.

Effective communication is in general the key to unlocking the full potential of groundbreaking research projects. But there is no doubt that scientists in a recycling research project in particular should be able to communicate with the media – given that sustainability issues are not always discussed peacefully. On top of that, refractory recycling is a field at the forefront of sustainable innovation and requires the ability to explain most complex aspects to a diverse audience. I figured, media coaching for our scientists would be an invaluable tool. So I did a workshop with them this past summer.

In the media coaching we first went through some basics of communication: we started with the Shannon-Weaver model. This model is one of the earliest and most important models of communication. It was first published in the 1940s, in a paper named “A Mathematical Theory of Communication” and reduces the communication process to its absolute basics, namely a sender, a message, a channel, a receiver, and potential sources of interference. The sender encodes a message, which is then transmitted through a channel to a receiver. The transmission in the channel can be disrupted from outside, so the message could not get through. If it gets through though, the receiver decodes the message to understand the sender’s intended meaning.

The most important point of this model is that the sender can influence if the receiver understands the message. They can do so by figuring out what coding system is known by the receiver. In simple terms: if I know the receiver understands English but not Spanish, I should make sure to use English and not Spanish for my message. It is the responsibility of the sender to ensure that the receiver can understand the message. But: The receiver also needs to be willing to understand the message, hence the message should be an attractive one. One they would like to decode.

What exactly it is that is attractive to people is as diverse as the people themselves. It starts usually with the package: level of speech, length, and of course content. We need to accept that not everybody will take an interest in our research, especially not an interest in all the tiny little details of it. In the media training we covered how diverse the interests of people can be at the example of the Austrian population and the parameters like values, income, education, that divide this population in different groups. Newspapers respectively their journalists know exactly who their readers (= receivers) are. So, they will report on the topics that are interesting to exactly this group. That does not mean that other topics are not important – just maybe not important to this specific group. Another consequence from this might be that our scientists should emphasize different aspects: for some stakeholders the positive effect on the environment that comes from our project is the most important thing. For others it might be that developments like our sorting machine bring a competitive advantage.

With these two basics I hoped to explain that scientists can avoid to be misunderstood by making sure that their message is focused on what really matters, that this message is brief and that it should differ for each target group.

Another topic that we covered in the coaching is the function of journalists. Journalists have to be critical. If journalists don’t question if what we do with public funds is worth the money, they don’t do their job. Of course, our scientists were already aware of this, but knowing that this is important and being confronted with critical questions yourself, that is not the same thing.

We know that our project is worth the money and that what we are working on is really important. But that is not all it takes to navigate interviews and inquiries with confidence. In the media coaching we therefore practiced how to answer critical questions. In two groups our scientists asked each other the most critical questions they could think of and worked together to find the best possible answers. That was not only a very effective excercise but also a really funny one.

After all this, I have no doubt that our scientists will go with much more confidence in their next interview. I definitely wish them and the ReSoURCE project all the best and I am sure that they will be very successful.

Refractory recycling research project ReSoURCE - Carmen Loew, Science Communicator

Author’s Portrait

Carmen Loew

Carmen Loew, Magistra Artium, is the project ReSoURCE’s former science communicator. She studied Archaeology at the Universities of Saarbrücken and Bamberg and managed projects in research and rescue archaeology in Germany and France before she focused on science communication in 2015. She is a certified PR manager, Fundraising manager, Marketing & Sales assistant, and cultural educator. Her (research) interests are science communication and outreach, crisis communication as well as intercultural communication.

Ahead of Saranya’s maternity leave starting in December 2023, our former science communicator Carmen Loew (CL) did an interview with Ramona Oros (RO), the interim project manager for ReSoURCE at RHI Magnesita.

CL: Hello Ramona, welcome to the ReSoURCE Team! Did you have the chance to meet some of the new colleagues?
RO: Thank you, yes, I met Alexander and am looking forward to meet more people.

CL: Ramona, what is your professional background? Are you a material scientist?
RO: Yes, I am a telecommunication and material scientist. I have a PhD in Telecommunication and Material Sciences. I also have master’s degree in international business administration.

CL: I assume that this is not the first time that you are working for an EU project, correct?
RO: Yes, that is correct. I have worked with EU funded projects for the last 12 years. I have been involved with around 20 EU projects and fifteen different funding schemes addressing research and innovation topics covering education to industrial relevant topics.

CL: Are you familiar with sustainability topics?
RO: Yes, I worked at EIT Digital before. EIT Digital’s (https://www.eitdigital.eu/our-community/purpose/) goal is to create a strong digital Europe that upholds European values of inclusivity, fairness, and sustainability. For this, the focus was on building the next generation of digital ventures, products, and services, while also nurturing digital entrepreneurial talent to address the digital transformation challenges and green transition at the forefront of digital innovation.

CL: What do you find most interesting about ReSoURCE?
RO: I know that the availability of raw materials is a concern in the EU, and what ReSoURCE is aiming addresses this concern while considering to reduce CO2 emissions and energy consumptions.

CL: Our project is an international one. Your name suggests that you also have an international background. Correct? If so, where are your roots and in which countries did you live before?
RO: Indeed, I’m Romanian by origins and moved abroad after finishing my education. I’ve started my career in Austria from where I moved to Belgium to come back to Austria 5 years later. I can say that Austria is for me home, and where I have the slopes close as I love skiing. During all my journey I’m worked physically and remote in international team across Europe and not only.

CL: What are you most looking forward to?
RO: I’m excited to be part of this team and bring my contribution to such a highly innovative project. I’m looking forward to meeting the project colleagues and start a fruitful collaboration.

CL: Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. I wish you all the best in your new role.