Bessemer process (bĕsˈəmər) [key] [for Sir Henry Bessemer], industrial process for the manufacture of steel from molten pig iron. The principle involved is that of oxidation of the impurities in the iron by the oxygen of air that is blown through the molten iron; the heat of oxidation raises the temperature of the mass and keeps it molten during operation. The process is carried on in a large container called the Bessemer converter, which is made of steel and has a lining of silica and clay or of dolomite. The capacity is from 8 to 30 tons of molten iron; the usual charge is 15 or 18 tons. The converter is egg-shaped. At its narrow upper end it has an opening through which the iron to be treated is introduced and the finished product is poured out. The wide end, or bottom, has a number of perforations (tuyères) through which the air is forced upward into the converter during operation. The container is set on pivots (trunnions) so that it can be tilted at an angle to receive the charge, turned upright during the "blow," and inclined for pouring the molten steel after the operation is complete. As the air passes upward through the molten pig iron, impurities such as silicon, manganese, and carbon unite with the oxygen in the air to form oxides; the carbon monoxide burns off with a blue flame and the other impurities form slag. Dolomite is used as the converter lining when the phosphorus content is high; the process is then called basic Bessemer. The silica and clay lining is used in the acid Bessemer, in which phosphorus is not removed. In order to provide the elements necessary to give the steel the desired properties, another substance (often spiegeleisen, an iron-carbon-manganese alloy) is usually added to the molten metal after the oxidation is completed. The converter is then emptied into ladles from which the steel is poured into molds; the slag is left behind. The whole process is completed in 15 to 20 min. The Bessemer process was superseded by the open-hearth process (see steel). See also metallurgy.
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