Primary Aluminium News - Interview

“Aluminium is a clear favourite, given its versatility and wide-ranging applications, particularly in emerging sectors such as renewables, electric vehicles, hi-tech manufacturing and even space exploration, lending it the sobriquet of ‘the metal of the future’”, Dr. Amit Chatterjee, Chief Research and Development Officer at Vedanta Ltd - Aluminium Business.

Dr. Chatterjee, with 33 years of Industrial R&D experience and expertise, is a visionary leader in innovative Research and Development, driving new product development, process improvement, beneficiation of minerals, wealth from waste and decarbonization efforts in the aluminium industry. His leadership sparks open innovation and effective collaborations that translate research into real-world applications and sustainable business solutions. Dr. Chatterjee is an eminent force in the field with a rich background encompassing upstream and downstream aluminium processes, process intensification by modelling and simulation, and valorization of waste by chemical processing.

AL Circle: Can you elaborate on the key enablers driving aluminium's increasing adoption in various industries?


Dr. Amit Chatterjee: Aluminium's high strength-to-weight ratio, superb electrical & thermal conductivity, exceptional design flexibility, corrosion resistance and infinite recyclability is increasingly finding critical applications in sunrise sectors such as high-tech manufacturing, energy and storage solutions, electric vehicles, aerospace, renewable energy, low carbon or green products, green buildings and sustainable packaging while sustained strong demand from construction & infrastructure, automotive and aviation. Consequently, the global aluminium industry is poised for exponential growth to cater to the emerging demand for above-sustainable solutions.

Vedanta Aluminium, one of the world's top and India's largest aluminium producers is well-resourced to meet this growing demand. In FY23, the company produced more than half of India's aluminium at 2.29 million tonnes, catering to all major growth sectors. The company produces one of the largest ranges of high-quality aluminium products in the form of Restora or 'green aluminium' (aluminium that has a low carbon footprint), Billets, Primary Foundry Alloy (PFA), Wire Rods, Slabs, P1020 Ingots, Rolled Products, Flip Coils, T-Ingots, Sow Ingots and hot/liquid metal.

AL Circle: How did Vedanta's research and innovation contribute to enhancing the properties of aluminium, making it more suitable for demanding applications in these diverse sectors?

Dr. Amit Chatterjee: Vedanta Aluminium’s Research and development (R&D) expertise has resulted in products and several research projects to impart properties of much higher value to aluminium alloys, rendering them extremely user-friendly and adaptable to beneficiary industries. R&D has also successfully deployed scientific tools like Thermodynamic-based Phase Equilibria to tailor the additives and design the process of heat treatment with an aim to control microstructure effectively, which is reflected in the functional attributes of alloys. In its never-ending quest for innovation, the company has also very successfully collaborated with external experts from reputed institutions and emerging tech startups to maintain the speed of innovation of these developments and reduce the time needed to offer them to the wider market.

AL Circle: Could you discuss any recent breakthroughs or developments in aluminium alloys that have further improved its strength-to-weight ratio and overall performance?

Dr. Amit Chatterjee: Vedanta Aluminium is a key driver for the growth of various sectors, notably the automotive industry. The company indigenously manufactures complex alloys like Primary Foundry Alloy and AlSi3, which were once only imported by the automotive and steel industries. The company also creates customised products for improved efficiency and specific applications, such as the 12 mm wire rod for the electrical distribution industry and high-speed billets with 25-30% faster extrusion rates. The company is expanding its value-added portfolio and creating tailor-made products that are strategically important for its customers, especially for sunrise sectors like renewable energy, EV, power storage, hi-tech manufacturing and aerospace.

AL Circle: Can you share a few examples of successful partnerships or collaborations Vedanta has engaged in to advance research and development in the aluminium industry?

Dr. Amit Chatterjee: The fields of science and engineering always have their borderlines overlapping. The exchange of knowledge, ideas and fusion of skill and experience are the ones that augment research, innovation and scientific work. Leveraging the pool of scientific talent in academics, research institutions and start-ups and forging strategic partnerships with them is an effective way to ensure the successful completion of research projects. Deep technical investigation involves scientific tools, analytical instruments, and test instruments, and the availability of such a diverse range of items under one roof is impossible. Therefore, the R&D department of Vedanta has forged a very successful partnership to carry out innovative research into new products, new processes and projects for developing effective solutions related to ESG with the IITs, Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) and deep-tech start-ups.

AL Circle: With the rapid advancements in materials science and technology, what would be your advice for companies to stay ahead of the curve in terms of innovation to maintain aluminium's competitiveness against other materials in these industries?

Dr. Amit Chatterjee: The next few decades will see disruptive developments in product innovation. Innovation and subsequent R&D investigations will drive the process of product development, process improvement and energy reduction to take a leadership position in the market. Every business will strive to bring not only the best but also to overcome existing limitations in the functional attributes of materials. Materials are the backbone of any high-fidelity, high-performing component and product. Higher elastic constants, superior formability, and more efficient electrical and thermal conductivity will dictate and demand the scientific community to enhance its focus on development. Aluminium is a clear favourite, given its versatility and wide-ranging applications, particularly in emerging sectors such as renewables,  electric vehicles, hi-tech manufacturing and even space exploration, lending it the sobriquet of ‘the metal of the future’.  

Cultivating knowledge and innovation will involve training to upgrade the skill levels of all human resources, adopting sophisticated scientific tools and facilities, and creating an ecosystem of all these to perpetuate the momentum of product and process development and bring disruptive solutions. In addition, every solution needs to address the ESG aspect of the business. Companies will gain a tremendous competitive advantage through high-performing saleable products, optimized processes to maximize yield, and minimal specific energy consumption with reduced carbon emissions.

AL Circle: As the demand for aluminium continues to grow across various sectors, what should be the focus areas in terms of research and development to ensure that aluminium remains the preferred choice for an even broader range of applications?

Dr. Amit Chatterjee: While Aluminium is already a preferred choice for applications across various sectors, related sustainability issues like controlling emission levels, beneficiation of bauxite, and conversion of waste to wealth to lay a foundation of circular economy are the ones that will need deep focus and a clear road map. Effective solutions for such activities will evolve from a high level of research and technological disruptions. The Research & Development function has to deploy highly trained people to identify and initiate executable research programs through external collaboration or within the organization itself. Upgrading facilities for scientific in-depth analysis, fabrication of prototypes, testing and subsequent validation facilities will be the essential success factors for every industry. Another area where R&D will play a very important role will be the adoption of new technology and absorption of the same into the organization.

Read the second part of the interview here.

Edited By:

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