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McMaster Steel Research Centre

Hamilton, Ontario, is the centre of Canada’s steel industry and McMaster’s Steel Research Centre, founded in 2000, has evolved from a long established university-industry cooperation to a key resource for industry.

The Steel Research Centre was set up to formalize and expand McMaster University’s well-established research links to Canada’s steel industry.  Now in its third decade, the Centre has strong industrial support and graduates from the Centre are providing technical leadership to the industry worldwide.

The SRC’s research program is designed by its member companies and addresses difficult problems in primary and secondary steelmaking, process optimization and control, hot rolling, advanced high strength steels and metallic coating technology.  Whole-of-process mathematical models have been developed that combine principles of high temperature chemical thermodynamics and kinetics with data from extensive laboratory and plant trials.   The research program is highly collaborative with industry and is strengthened by access to production facilities and the generous advice we receive from prominent steel metallurgists.

The Centre is structured to foster collaboration and communication.  Formal project review meetings are held in late fall and early summer, where graduate candidates present their results and receive valuable feedback. As part of these meetings the Centre’s Board reviews budget matters and approves future directions.  Member companies’ interest in intellectual property is protected by a membership agreement which confers royalty free rights to use the research results. 

Industry collaboration with McMaster’s Department of Metallurgy and Metallurgical Engineering (Now Materials Science and Engineering) was formalized as long ago as 1962 with the establishment of the Stelco Chair in Metallurgy, held in succession through 199x by Robert Ward, Jack Kirkaldy, and Wei-Kao Lu, who together made significant contributions in the fields of phase transformations and primary iron and steelmaking.

Dr. Jack Kirkaldy and Dr. Robert Ward Dr. Wei-Kao Lu

Starting in 1997, Gordon Irons continued this tradition with a strong focus on steelmaking process metallurgy as Dofasco/NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Ferrous Metallurgy. In 2000, the success of this motivated the expansion of the Research Chair model for industrial collaboration into the Steel Research Centre. The Centre now combines the efforts of four steel-focused research chairs in the Departments of Materials Science and Engineering, Chemical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering with strong participation from additional faculty members in these three departments.  Dr. Irons acted as the Centre’s Founding Director from 2000 to 2014 and was succeeded by Ken Coley from 2014 to 2019, when Joe McDermid was appointed Director.

Dr. Gordon Irons Dr. Ken Coley Dr. Joe McDermid

McMaster’s University supports Science-based Manufacturing as a key research area.  The SRC combines research objectives established by the steel industry with government funding supporting wealth creation through science.  Developing exploitable technologies motivates and sustains a talented academic research team for the benefit of the steel industry, while producing a stream of knowledgeable engineers ready to make careers in steel. There are three components to the SRC’s mission:

  • Research leading to commercially relevant new approaches to ironmaking, steelmaking process control, waste processing, steel product design and metal forming technologies.
  • Training of highly qualified personnel who can transfer new technology to the steel industry.
  • Continuing education for steel industry engineers to enhance the receptor capacity for innovation.

Guidance from the Centre’s industrial members is an essential principle of the organization. We have built up a membership consisting of the world's major steel producers, as well as suppliers and engineering consultants to the industry.

Funding for research projects in the Centre comes from industrial membership fees, combined with research grants.  Once a project proposal is approved by the Board, the Principal Investigator applies for grants under various programs of the Canadian federal government or the Province of Ontario.  Since 2000, Centre projects have been awarded over $8M in operating funds and a further $15M towards capital costs to expand laboratory equipment capabilities.  Individual member companies, then, benefit from a significant multiplier of about 9:1 on their annual contributions, as well as access to the Centre’s specialized test facilities.

We are grateful for the support of the following funding agencies:


Natural Sciences & Engineering Research Council Programs

Collaborative Research and Development
Industrial Research Chair
Idea to Innovation
Strategic Grants
Alliance Grants

Canada Foundation for Innovation

Innovation Fund
Leaders Opportunity Fund
John R. Evans Leaders Fund


Ontario Centres of Excellence
Ontario Research & Development Challenge Fund
Ontario Innovation Trust
Ontario Research Fund

NSERC Logo  



Scheduled Bi-annual Meetings

2021 Spring Meetings:

  1. Program Review: Thursday, June 10 & Friday, June 11, from 8:00 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  2. Board Meeting: Wednesday, June 16, from 8:30 a.m. to noon.

2021 Fall Meetings:

  1. Program Review: Thursday, December 9 & Friday, December 10, from 8:00 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  2. Board Meeting: Tuesday, December 14, from 8:30 a.m. to noon.

Steel Research Laboratory Facilities

The centre's research uses a wide range of facilities located at McMaster. Some of these are dedicated to Steel Research while other generic analytical equipment is accessed through the Department of Materials Science and Engineering of the Brockhose Institute for Materials Research.


  • Vacuum/Atmosphere Induction Furnace (75 KW - 50 kg. Heat)
    • Wire feeding
    • Powder injection
  • Air Melt Induction furnace (75 KW – 100 kg. Heat)
    • Wire feeding
    • Powder injection
  • X-ray cinematography for imaging metal-slag reactions.
  • Yonekura Confocal scanning laser microscope combined with an infrared image furnace (1700C) and hot deformation stage.
  • 3 Resistance heated vertical furnaces (500gr, 1600C)
  • Resisted heated slag melting furnace (1500C)
  • 2 Bridgman solidification furnaces (one capable of 1000˚C, the other capable of 1600˚C)
  • High-temperature (1600˚C) differential scanning calorimetry
  • hercast software for thermal-fluid-stress modelling of the continuous casting process
  • SOLID software for thermal-solutal modelling of the continuous casting process
  • Isotope exchange apparatus for studies of reaction kinetics
  • Atmosphere/vacuum thermogravimetric analysis systems
  • Galvanizing wiping rig model (Oil on 12in wide endless steel belt)
  • Surtec AIII Hot-Dip Coat/Anneal Simulator
  • RHESCA Molten Metal Wetting Force Testing System
  • Salt bath furnaces (to 1300°C)
  • Stanat rolling mill (2 high: 4 in Ø x 6 in rolls)
  • Leco CS 744 Carbon – Sulfur analyser
  • Leco ON 736 Oxygen – Nitrogen analyser
  • Varian Vista PRO  Inductively Coupled Plasma/ Optical Emission Spectrometer
  • Micromass IsoPrime mass spectrometer (for isotope exchange studies)
  • Perkin Elmer Autosystem XL gas chromatograph
  • Glow discharge optical emission spectroscopy: JY profiler HR. (Fe, C, Mn, S, Si, P, Ni, Cr, Nb, Ti, B, Mo, Al, Zn Mg, Sn, Ca, Co, V, W, H, O, N).

Projects in the Centre make extensive use of the advanced microscopy equipment in McMaster’s CCEM

  • Struers Pedemax 2 automatic polishing
  • Struers Roto-System 300 automatic polishing (arrives Dec)
  • Leitz Metalloplan metallograph with digital imaging
  • Leco M-400-H2 microhardness tester
  • Charpy impact toughness tester

Instron Mechanical Test Machines (Hydraulic)
Two Test Frames:

  1. 100 kN
  2. 250 kN
  • Vee Jaw faces 6.1 – 26.2 mm diameter for gripping round specimens.
  • Vee Jaw faces 50 mm wide (100 kN) for gripping specimens 0 – 7.8 mm thick (For flat specimens)
  • Vee Jaw faces 100 mm wide (250 kN) for gripping specimens 0 – 6.4 mm thick (For flat specimens)

Lloyd’s Screw driven test Machine
Load Cell:

  1. 1000 N
  2. 30 kN
  • Machine can perform simple tensile, compression, and bending tests.
  • Fully computerized data acquisition.
  • Jaw faces for both round and flat specimens


The Centre’s activities fall into three main areas:

There are four areas of Specialization:

  • Oxygen Steelmaking:

Current research directions are aimed at developing a first principles mathematical model of the entire BOF heat production operation, from scrap to tap.  An extensive series of laboratory experiments has guided the modeling of C and P refining from iron droplets in contact with a range of slag compositions with contact times determined by buoyancy effects resulting from internal gas generation that forms “bloated” droplets.

  • Electric Furnace Steelmaking:

A major project has been carried out to understand and model carbon injection and slag foaming in the EAF.  A model has been validated against industrial measurements that relates the rate of carbon injection, carbon source composition, slag composition and temperature to the foamed slag depth.  Other work in this area has examined NOx formation, scrap heating efficiencies from sidewall burners, and phase-field modeling of scrap melting in contact with the liquid bath.

  • Secondary Steelmaking:

We have been continuously evolving a model of secondary steelmaking since 2004, from the first version that predicted the evolution of slag and steel composition during LMF treatment to recent incorporation of spinel formation and calcium modification kinetics.  Techniques have been developed to perform Ca treatment experiments in ultra-low oxygen environments and confocal microscopy is extensively used to study inclusion-slag reactions. This work is currently being extended to Si killed compositions for application to long products production.

  • Continuous Casting:

This area of research has been recently added to the Centre’s activities and combines strong modeling capabilities with new laboratory facilities.  Current work is examining hot tearing susceptibility in advanced high strength steel compositions and solidification microstructures in higher Mn and Si steels, including the development of short-range variation in Mn and Si concentration that can affect micron-scale microstructural uniformity of final products.

Current Process Metallurgy Projects:

  • BOF Steelmaking Model
  • Inclusion Modification by Ca Treatment
  • Multi-Physics Modeling of Semi-Solid Deformation & Hot Tearing in AHSS Casting
  • Microsegregation of Mn & Si
  • Inclusion Treatment & Nozzle Clogging
  • Steel Inclusion Prediction in Ladle Treatment

McMaster’s Chemical Engineering Department is a leader in the field of advanced process control, and operates the highly successful McMaster Advanced Control Consortium (MACC).  Developments in model based multivariate process control and optimization have been very successful in the chemical process industries and the same techniques have great potential for application to steel production.  Coupled with ‘Big Data’ the resulting models can inform monitoring and control, plant scheduling, troubleshooting, or product development.  Projects funded by the SRC in this area have developed optimization models for EAF and BOF heat processing that can guide the tradeoffs between operating inputs to achieve a cost or quality objective.

McMaster’s strengths in mechanical metallurgy, phase transformations and electron microscopy are being clearly focused on steel product development in finishing operations.  A first-principals model of thermomechanical processing of microalloyed steels is providing useful insights into the design of hot rolling processes.  Our expertise and facilities in corrosion studies are being applied to generate fundamental insights into environmentally assisted cracking in linepipe steels.  The Centre is also the focus of a major effort devoted to developing zinc-coated third generation advanced high strength steels for automotive applications.  This research is interdisciplinary, involving alloy design, hot-dip coating process variables and formability/fabrication technologies.

Current Steel Development Projects:

  • Hot Rolling of Microalloyed Steels
  • Development of HIC Resistant X70
  • Rolled-in Scale Control
  • Reactive Wetting of AHSS by Al-Mg-Zn Baths
  • Reactive Wetting of DP Steels by Zn-Al-Mg Baths
  • Effect of Surface Active Elements on 6 & 10 Mn-Si Steel Coatings
  • Inhibition Layer Formation on Mn Containing Steels
  • Solidification Control of Thin Slab Cast Microalloyed Steels


Our world-class researchers offer top notch support to the steel industry.



Membership in the McMaster Steel Research Centre is available to companies that have an interest in the steel industry as producers, suppliers or users. Members pay annual membership fees and participate in decision making and intellectual property as outlined below. The Members' fees attract matching funds from Government agencies. Annual memberships, therefore, provide a highly levered access to about one million dollars of research activity.

Membership commitments are for five years, with provision for withdrawal on six months’ notice. The membership agreement and intellectual property policy outline rights in, and measures to protect the value of, developments made by the Centre.

Summary of Membership Right

* Early access to research results.
* Pre-publication copies of papers.
* Semi-annual reviews.
* Access to short courses.
* Non-exclusive, non-transferable, royalty –free licences for in-house use of IP developed by the Centre’s research.
* Exclusive, transferable, royalty-bearing licence for IP developed by research contracts with the Centre.
* Research contracts use discounted OH rate (30%)
* Entitled to transferable, non-exclusive, royalty-bearing licences permitting commercial exploitation of IP to third parties
* Participates in Program Review Groups
* Board membership


Blast Furnace Ironmaking Course

It is an in-depth, week-long course held every second year. It covers every aspect of blast furnace ironmaking, making it invaluable for managers, operators, engineers, researchers and suppliers of equipment, refractories and raw materials. It is officially recognized by the American Iron and Steel Institute. The lecturers in the course are acknowledged experts in their fields and the delegates come from diversified industrial backgrounds. The week-long course consists of 24 lectures given by experts in the field, supplemented by a computer game, and plant tours.

Cokemaking Course

It is designed to present knowledge of the coke plant to operators, researchers and suppliers to the industry. It is patterned after the Blast Furnace Course. The week-long course held every second year consist of 18 lectures given by international experts in the field, supplemented by two case study workshops, a computer game, and plant tours.

Contact Us

 Joe McDermid

Director, Steel Research Centre 
McMaster University
1280 Main Street West
Hamilton, ON, L8S 4L7, Canada
Tel: (905) 525-9140 ext. 27476
Fax: (905) 526-8404

John Thomson

Operations Manager, Steel Research Centre
McMaster University
1280 Main Street West
Hamilton, ON, L8S 4L7, Canada
Tel: (905) 525-9140 ext. 24955
Fax: (905) 526-8404