Did you know ... ? #11

Did you know that Cockerill was one of the first to use the Bessemer process?

During the process of manufacturing steel from cast iron, there is an important stage known as refining. This refining is carried out by oxidation and is eliminates any impurities which remain in the cast iron. These various chemical elements damage the mechanical properties of the finished product, steel. There are different ways or arriving at the required result and one of these is the Bessemer process.

An English industrialist and metallurgist, Henry Bessemer perfects a process in 1855, which propels the world into the steel era. In order to obtain purer steel, the liquid cast iron is poured into an enormous recipient, the ‘Bessemer Converter’. Compressed air is injected into this, and the exothermal reaction burns off the unwanted chemical elements, such as carbon and silicon, at a temperature which can reach 1600°C. This is why tons of steel are able to come out of the converters at record speeds. This process replaces the production of steel by melting pot and puddling, much slower, laborious and costly.

The Cockerill factories are to be the first in Belgium to use the Bessemer method, from 1863. The process was much less difficult for the workers than puddling, but was not suitable for all types of cast iron.

Later, the Thomas process would replace that of Henry Bessemer.