The continuous casting of Al-killed Ti-stabilized interstitial free steels is often affected by clogging. By today, the mechanism behind this phenomenon is not entirely clarified. The active tracing method, which involves the direct addition of rare-earth elements (REEs), enables tracking of nonmetallic inclusions (NMIs) over process time. Due to the high oxygen affinity of these elements, preexisting NMIs are partially reduced and marked by this tracer. Using scanning electron microscopy with energy-dispersive spectroscopy, it is possible to differentiate such labeled NMIs from particles formed at later stages in the process by the absence of these tracing elements. Active tracing is used in industrial and laboratory settings to trace preexisting alumina NMIs with La or Ce. In the investigation, it is revealed that the number of small NMIs increases after the addition of REEs, and subsequently, the size increases again after FeTi is alloyed. In both settings, traced and untraced Al–Ti oxides are found. The separation tendency of traced NMIs is studied over time by analyzing the composition of the slags. Furthermore, the impact of deoxidation products on the formation of the clogging layer within the submerged entry nozzle is investigated, indicating that these NMIs contribute to its formation.
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