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2008 Presidential address: How cool are refractory materials?

A._Garbers-CraigBy A.M. Garbers-Craig
Without refractory materials most of the scientific and technological inventions and developments we know today would not have been possible. The existence of virtually everything we see around us, or use in everyday life, is in some way dependent on refractory materials. Refractories are therefore facilitating or enabling materials, and are essential to the successful operation of any industry in which high temperatures are used .
The word ‘refractory’ is derived from the Latin word, ‘refractarius’, which means stubborn . These materials resist high temperatures, have high-quality mechanical and thermomechanical properties, have high corrosion resistance, act as a heat buffer between the walls of the containing vessel and the hot charge, and conserve process heat.
Reliability and long service life are required from materials when put into operation. Refractory cost is therefore expressed in terms of tons of product produced, i.e. the cost of the refractory material is weighed against useful life and replacement cost. A refractory material is a type of engineering ceramic called an ‘industrial ceramic’ . Refractory materials, however, have
coarser grain sizes and higher porosities than engineering ceramics, and consist of aggregate particles, held together by a bonding (matrix) phase, where both the aggregate and the bond can be multiphased .
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President’s message for the New Year...

At the beginning of a brand new year, one automatically reflects on the past year, and contemplates what 2009 will bring. I am sure you will agree that 2008 was a very eventful year for our industry, which started with the South African power crisis in January, and ended with the global financial crisis that resulted in an economic slowdown, currency volatility, a sharp pull-back in commodity prices and rising unemployment. Economists predict that 2009 will be a tough year, that we need to tighten our belts, and that we will have our fair share of challenges. Fortunately the majority of economists remain optimistic about the resilience of our economy, and some even predict that by the end of 2009 the South African economy might be stronger than is considered possible at present.

My wishes for us who work in the mining and metallurgical industry for 2009 is therefore that we will seize the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead, that we will persevere, strive towards excellence, capitalize on positive news and celebrate our achievements, notwithstanding the hardships. And on a more personal note: my wishes for you for 2009 are that you and your loved ones will enjoy good health, that you will find inspiration, meaning and happiness in your lives, and that you will savour the good times! May 2009 pleasantly surprise us! A.M. Garbers-Craig President

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