In the duplex process the conversion of the cast iron into steel is begun in the Bessemer converter and finished in the openhearth furnace.
Whatever be the form into which the steel is to be rolled, it must in general first be poured from the Bessemer converter in which it is made into a large clay-lined ladle, and thence cast in vertical pyramidal ingots.
In short the electric furnaces can be used to improve the molten product of the Bessemer converter and open-hearth furnace, essentially because their atmosphere is free from sulphur and oxygen, and because they can therefore remove sulphur, iron oxide and mechanically suspended slag, more thoroughly than is possible in these older furnaces.
Looking at the duplex process in another way, the preliminary desilicidizing in the Bessemer converter should certainly be an advantage; but whether it is more profitable to give this treatment in the converter than in the mixer remains to be seen.
When the former is used it is roasted with calcium sulphate or alkali waste to form a matte which is then blown in a Bessemer converter or heated in a reverberatory furnace with a siliceous flux with the object of forming a rich nickel sulphide.
Electric furnaces are at an advantage over others as regards the removal of sulphur and of iron oxide from the molten steel, because their atmosphere is free from the sulphur always present in the flame of coal-fired furnaces, and almost free from oxygen, because this element is quickly absorbed by the carbon and silicon of the steel, and in the case of arc furnaces by the carbon of the electrodes themselves, and is replaced only very slowly by leakage, whereas through the Bessemer converter and the open-hearth furnace a torrent of air is always rushing.
Why the molten metal can be freed from mechanically suspended slag more perfectly in them than in the Bessemer converter or the open-hearth furnace.
The melting can be done much more cheaply in a cupola or open-hearth furnace, and the first part of the purification much more cheaply in a Bessemer converter or open-hearth furnace.
But no part of the Bessemer converter is of a shape easily affected by the heat, no part of it is exposed to the heat on more than one side, and the converter itself is necessarily cooler than the metal within it, because the heat is generated within the metal itself by the combustion of its silicon and other calorific elements.