Extraction of Liquid Elements by Electrolysis of Oxides

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is a vertical section showing an electrochemical apparatus configured to extract a target element from an oxide feedstock compound, in accordance with the invention
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Inventors
Professor Antoine Allanore
Department of Materials Science and Engineering, MIT
External Link (allanore.mit.edu)
Professor Donald Sadoway
Department of Materials Science and Engineering, MIT
External Link (sadoway.mit.edu)
Managed By
Christopher Noble
MIT Technology Licensing Officer - Clean and Renewable Energy
Patent Protection

Extraction of Liquid Elements by Electrolysis of Oxides:

US Patent 8,764,962

Applications

This technology is applicable to metal production from oxide ore.

Problem Addressed

Traditional metal refining from ore produces large amounts of CO2, a potent green house gas, and uses a great deal of energy.  This technology makes metal production more environmentally friendly by eliminating carbon production during smelting and reducing the amount of energy required to produce high-purity metals.

Technology

This technology uses electrolysis to produce pure elements directly from oxides.  In typical electrolysis, the anode material is often consumed or must be made from rare metals, making electrolysis an expensive operation.  This technology develops a stable and cheap anode that makes electrolysis cheaper and more energy efficient than conventional smelting processes.  The anode is composed of a metallic substrate with an oxide layer that is thick enough to protect the metal from corrosion but thin enough to not hinder electrical conductivity.  Oxygen precursors and oxide feedstock are added to the electrolyte so that during electrolysis, liquid metal is deposited at the cathode while pure oxygen forms at the anode.  This technique can be adapted to extract a wide range of elements, including iron, titanium, nickel, chromium, manganese, silicon, zirconium, and cobalt.  The electrolysis allows this technology to efficiently produce metals with very low levels of contaminants and eliminate much of the CO2 emissions associated with traditional smelting processes.

Advantages

  • Produces high-purity metals directly from oxides
  • Low CO2 emissions
  • More efficient than traditional smelting processes