Mr Bob Lu
School of Biomedical Sciences and Pharmacy
Ironmaking in the digital age
Professor Bob Loo is the Director of the Centre for Ironmaking Materials Research (CIMR), which is a partnership between Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources (NIER) and BHP Billiton.
A PhD graduate from the University of Oxford in the UK, Professor Loo's main area of expertise is the behaviour of iron ores in the ironmaking process. He has authored over 55 journal articles on which and how fundamental ore properties influence the efficiency of the blast furnace and sintering properties. He has also assisted BHP Billiton in the evaluation of new deposits, defining the specification of the ores from these deposits and their marketing to steel mills all over the world.
In 1998 Professor Loo's team received a Major Innovation Award for research and technical contributions in marketing, which resulted in an unprecedented demand for a new ore (Yandi) in the marketplace. This ore, which was previously considered a problematic material and, hence, only used at low levels, is now a major component in most Asia Pacific ore blends. At the University of Newcastle, research on world iron ores, and the relationship between fundamental ore properties and performance in the ironmaking process continue to be Professor Loos' major activities and his work is fully funded by BHP Billiton.
Professor Loo has successfully supervised three BHP Billiton sponsored postgraduate research students. These include a PhD project at Zhejiang University which was aimed at building a mathematical model of the sintering process based on the fundamental knowledge acquired from research. Further work to improve and fine-tune the complex model is now being carried out at the University of Newcastle under a three-year BHP Billion funded agreement. The model is able to predict the performance of blends under a range of sintering conditions and is used by BHP Billiton to help understand the behaviour of new ores and ore blends, and provide performance data to help determine the value of an iron ore.
Since joining the University of Newcastle Professor Loo has also been successful in obtaining ARC grants. The first was a three-year Linkage grant with partner organisations BHP Billiton and Bluescope Steel, to examine the factors controlling sinter product size and strength. The ability to control these two parameters has a major influence on the economics of both the sintering and blast furnace operations. More recently, Professor Loo was part of the team involved in establishing an ARC Research Hub for Advanced Technologies for Australian Iron Ore. Professor Kevin Galvin (Priority Research Centre for Advanced Particle Processing and Transport) and Emeritus Professor Alan Roberts (Centre for Bulk Solids and Particulate Technologies, TUNRA Bulk Solids) are the other collaborators and BHP Billiton is the major partner organisation.
The Research Hub aims to develop fundamental knowledge in the areas of iron ore beneficiation, handling and end-use, which will be used to support the development of new separation and handling technologies to sustain and grow value in iron ore production and sales.