MIT wins $1.89-million DOE analysis grant for one-step electrochemical copper extraction from sulfur-based minerals
MIT Affiliate Professor of Metallurgy Antoine Allanore’s lab has obtained an almost $2-million greenback grant to additional develop copper assortment strategies from molten sulfur-based minerals utilizing electrical energy. The resultant high-purity copper could possibly be used within the manufacturing of high-quality wire utilized in rising markets like renewable power and EVs.
Present pyrometallurgy strategies are tedious: sulfide minerals have to be crushed, copper-rich sections have to be floated away, the copper is refined in a smelter after which lastly subjected to electrolysis for purification. These strategies produce poisonous sulfur dioxide and copper with massive quantities of sulfur and oxygen. Allanore’s lab beforehand developed a one-step electrolysis method for the separation of copper from molten sulfide mineral ore that produces purer copper. The method additionally has the additional benefit of making elemental sulfur as a byproduct as an alternative of sulfur dioxide.
The lab’s research additionally resulted within the manufacturing of copper, molybdenum, and rhenium from sulfur-rich minerals utilizing a way just like the Corridor-Héroult means of aluminum manufacturing with a lot greater working temperatures. This grant will enable Allanore’s group to create a reactor able to producing ten instances the copper per hour whereas working longer and offering extra knowledge concerning the different beneficial metals extracted within the course of. The purpose is to develop a pilot plant in three years. “We’re aiming to be prepared to offer the design standards, the fabric and working circumstances of a one metric tonne [about 2,204 pounds, or 1.1 U.S. tons] per day demonstration reactor,” says Allanore.
“The revolution that we’re proposing is that just one reactor would do all the things. It will make the liquid copper product and permit us to get better elemental sulfur, and permits us to get better selenium,” says Allanore. “It might be doable to chop the power wanted for making copper by 20 p.c.”
“If developed and deployed, it has the potential to lower power demand, function solely on renewable power, and scale back sulfur dioxide emissions,” says ICA Know-how Director Hal Stillman. “As well as, it could separate undesirable impurities and get better beneficial by-products from the focus. Proper now, the technical proof that’s creating pleasure is a small-scale proof-of-principle demonstration.”