Ferrous Technology Center
In 2004, Nasa probes Spirit and Opportunity landed on Mars - half a billion miles away from Earth - to investigate traces of life. While passing through one of the craters on the Red Planet, Spirit was able to detect goethite, a ferrous mineral that only forms in the presence of water. Thus, scientists were able to conclude that if there was water on Mars, there may certainly also have been life there!
But, after all, what does this have to do with Vale?
Not many people know this, but the discovery of the presence of goethite on Mars was only possible thanks to Mössbauer spectroscopy, an analytical technique capable of identifying the chemical composition of rocks. This technology is present in NASA robots and also in our Ferrous Metals Technology Centre (known by Portuguese acronym CTF). Many other advanced analysis techniques and equipment are present at CTF, one of the most advanced mining and steelmaking technology centres in the world.
If our technology has already gone beyond the frontiers of Earth, find out what we can do in the area of research and development for our businesses and customers.
Understand the FTC
Opened in 2008, the FTC has focused on studying the use of iron ore and coal at the final destination of our production chain: The steel industry. Its focus is to deliver the product that is best suited to our customers' needs. Vale is the world's only mining company with a research center like this.
The steel cake recipe
A simple way of explaining the process in a steel mill is to think of a cake recipe. To make pig iron, a blend of ores, binders and other chemicals (melting agents) is placed in the blast furnace, as well as fuels for burning.
Picking the blend to use in steel mills is not a simple task - the mix can have varying amounts of minerals and even be provided by different mining companies. Nippon Steel, for example, Japan's largest steelmaker, evaluates the chemical quality of the minerals (iron and impurity content, mainly silica, phosphorus, and alumina), as well as the physical and metallurgy quality. All these aspects affect casting time, the amount of fuel and binders to be used and, ultimately, the production cost.