Nadia, a physics expert

Modelling strong connections

Meet Nadia – a physics expert drawing on people power to help decarbonise the mining industry


Meet Nadia – a physics expert drawing on people power to help decarbonise the mining industry 

Nadia is a magnetohydrodynamic modelling expert – a physicist specialising in studying liquids that conduct electricity in the presence of magnetic field. She’s one of our RioExperts, based at our research and development centre Laboratoire de Recherche des Fabrications (LRF) in Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne in France, where she contributes her knowledge about Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) to help launch products like our ELYSIS carbon-free aluminium. But it’s the flow of ideas between people that Nadia finds most energising.

“I really like my job because the work is multidisciplinary.  

Collaborating with colleagues and partners in many diverse fields is the best way to not only achieve a great outcome as a business, but to also improve yourself.  

I lead LRF’s magnetohydrodynamic modelling projects, using advanced simulation software to optimise and improve aluminum pot design, stability and performance.  

From its fundamentals in physics, to modelling, to practical applications within plants and experimental measurements, my work allows me to interact with people from many different fields – like engineers, operators and scientists.  

Our operations teams find this modelling useful, but they sometimes have difficulties understanding the underlying theory to it. I first noticed this when I was on site, and started explaining the physics related to the phenomena that we were observing on real pots, which operators directly related to their practical observations, noting down every bit of information on any support available – on paper, or even with clay directly on the floor. I also benefitted from their practical feedback on some items that we had not yet fully captured by simulations, and some ideas for future modelling improvements.

In this role, I’ve worked with some of Rio Tinto’s main aluminium electrolysis experts. I’ve also regularly collaborated with other aluminium reduction experts in Canada and Australia, benefitting from their experience and expertise throughout the years.

I was proud to be able to use my modeling expertise on the ELYSIS project. ELYSIS is a breakthrough technology, which uses inert materials rather than carbon in anodes for aluminium electrolysis, reducing the amount of carbon dioxide byproduct. I developed Magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) modelling and supervised CFD modelling simulations to take into account all types of phenomena involved in this new technology. I'm confident ELYSIS will help produce greener aluminium and support the company in one of its major ambitions – creating a more sustainable world.

My specific interest in physics modelling developed while I was completing my material sciences PhD. I was coupling non-Newtonian fluid mechanics, heat transfer and crystallisation effects, including material characterisation, numerical modelling, and experimental correlations, which built on the master’s degrees I’d completed in France and my home country Algeria.  

This technical background as well as my natural curiosity for complex physics led me to this career – controlling those phenomena is paramount to ensure high process efficiency, which directly impacts our smelters’ productivity.  

I really enjoy being a RioExpert. This community brings together experts of such diverse backgrounds and gives us all the opportunity to share technical knowledge through workshops, regular community meetings and presentations. It naturally creates a positive environment to share ideas, find more innovative solutions for operational efficiency and safety, and improve profits. 

Rio Tinto is a brilliant example of a successful transition to a more sustainable world, while maintaining its growth.  

And on my side, I'm very proud to bring my contribution to these global achievements. I’m excited to be a part of that.” 

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