Purdue University Northwest (PNW) researchers at the Center for Innovation through Visualization and Simulation (CIVS) are leading a team using a $7 million federal grant to improve steelmaking processes.


The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy awarded PNW and the Steel Manufacturing Simulation and Visualization Consortium (SMSVC) $7,048,766 for the development of a next-generation Integrated Virtual Blast Furnace to improve energy efficiency and emissions in real time and to develop a virtual training model.

“We are very grateful for this prestigious award by the Department of Energy and the strong support from our university, collaborators and supporters,” said Chenn Zhou, CIVS director and NIPSCO Distinguished Professor of Engineering Simulation. “Our top-notch project team will generate an innovative cutting-edge solution that will benefit blast furnaces in Northwest Indiana and throughout the United States.”

“As a premier metropolitan university, PNW’s research has a significant impact on Northwest Indiana. This project is an excellent example of the positive effect CIVS has on the regional and national economy, and serves as a strong foundation for further research over the coming years,” said Kenneth C. Holford, PNW provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs. “We are especially proud of the work of Professor Zhou, who has been honored for her outstanding work in her field with the first distinguished endowed professorship at Purdue Northwest.”

Congressman Frank J. Mrvan, who visited CIVS last year, said he looks forward to supporting the work of CIVS.

“I congratulate PNW Chancellor Thomas Keon and Dr. Chenn Zhou, director of CIVS, for successfully obtaining this outstanding federal resource from the Department of Energy’s Advanced Manufacturing Office,” Mrvan said. “I am grateful for the opportunity to tour CIVS last year, and understand the incredible benefit that the research at Purdue Northwest provides our industrial manufacturing base. Their capabilities are critical to the strength of our regional economy and the ability of Northwest Indiana steelworkers and tradesmen to utilize their skills with innovative technology and be a global leader in manufacturing. I will continue to seek opportunities to support federal programs that promote cutting-edge manufacturing and innovation right here in Indiana’s First Congressional District.”

Set to begin this spring, the three-year grant will allow CIVS to bring together a team of experts from universities, national laboratories and industry. The project will provide the U.S. steel industry with a unique and powerful platform for improving operational and energy efficiency in industrial blast furnaces both offline and in real time.

The project is expected to have a significant impact by reducing energy consumption by 4.5% to 10% in blast furnace and downstream processes, improving productivity and product quality, and reducing emissions from the manufacturing process, explained Tyamo Okosun, senior research engineer with CIVS who will head the project. The project also is expected to generate education and training modules for students, engineers and operators to provide critically needed workforce development within the steel industry.

Created in 2009, CIVS brings together PNW faculty, staff and students to work with industry, organizations and the community to solve real-world problems and create innovative solutions through simulation and visualization.

“Close collaboration with our industry partners continues to be a signature of the engineering programs at Purdue Northwest,” Holford noted. “These partnerships translate into a high-quality educational experience to our students, with many collaborations leading to successful employment outcomes.”

The SMSVC was formed in 2016 by CIVS at PNW. It brings together 15 member companies, including all U.S. blast furnace owners, with the goal of advancing the steel manufacturing industry by developing and implementing simulation and visualization technologies to address major technological issues and related barriers.

“This project will highlight Purdue Northwest as a top location for cutting-edge research as well as provide an opportunity for our students to work on real-world applications,” Zhou said.