In a blast furnace, fuel and ore are continuously supplied through the top of the furnace, while air (or pure oxygen) is blown into the bottom of the chamber, so that the chemical reactions take place throughout the furnace as the material moves downward. The end products are usually molten metal and slag phases tapped from the bottom, and flue gases exiting from the top of the furnace.
According to this broad definition, bloomeries for iron, blowing houses for tin and smelt mills for lead would be classified as blast furnaces. However, the term has usually been limited to those used for smelting iron ore to produce pig iron, an intermediate material used in the production of commercial iron and steel.
The purpose of a blast furnace is to chemically reduce and physically convert iron oxides into liquid iron called "hot metal". The blast furnace is a huge, steel stack lined with refractory brick, where iron ore, coke and limestone are dumped into the top, and preheated air is blown into the bottom. The raw materials require 6 to 8 hours to descend to the bottom of the furnace where they become the final product of liquid slag and liquid iron. These liquid products are drained from the furnace at regular intervals. The hot air that was blown into the bottom of the furnace ascends to the top in 6 to 8 seconds after going through numerous chemical reactions. Once a blast furnace is started it will continuously run for four to ten years with only short stops to perform planned maintenance.
The Process :
The final raw material in the ironmaking process in limestone. The limestone is removed from the earth by blasting with explosives. It is then crushed and screened to a size that ranges from 0.5 inch to 1.5 inch to become blast furnace flux . This flux can be pure high calcium limestone, dolomitic limestone containing magnesia or a blend of the two types of limestone.
Since the limestone is melted to become the slag which removes sulphur and other impurities, the blast furnace operator may blend the different stones to produce the desired slag chemistry to create optimum properties such as has a low melting point and a high fluidity.
All of the raw materials are stored in an ore field and transferred to the stockhouse before charging. Once these materials are charged into the furnace top, they go through numerous chemical and physical reactions while descending to the bottom of the furnace.
The iron ore, pellets and sinter are reduced which simply means the oxygen in the iron oxides is removed by a series of chemical reactions.
At the same time the iron oxides are going through these purifying reactions, they are also beginning to soften then melt and finally trickle as liquid iron through the coke to the bottom of the furnace. The coke descends to the bottom of the furnace to the level where the preheated air or hot blast enters the blast furnace. The coke is ignited by this hot blast and immediately reacts to generate heat.
The product of this reaction, carbon monoxide, is necessary to reduce the iron ore as seen in the previous iron oxide reactions.
The limestone descends in the blast furnace and remains a solid while going through it s first reaction.