Membrane Purification Cell for Aluminum Recycling

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Recycling mixed aluminum scrap usually requires adding primary aluminum to the scrap stream as a diluent to reduce the concentration of non-aluminum constituents used in aluminum alloys. Since primary aluminum production requires approximately 10 times more energy than melting scrap, the bulk of the energy and carbon dioxide emissions for recycling are associated with using primary aluminum as a diluent. Eliminating the need for using primary aluminum as a diluent would dramatically reduce energy requirements, decrease carbon dioxide emissions, and increase scrap utilization in recycling. Electrorefining can be used to extract pure aluminum from mixed scrap. Some example applications include ... continued below

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DeYoung, David; Wiswall, James & Wang, Cong November 29, 2011.

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Description

Recycling mixed aluminum scrap usually requires adding primary aluminum to the scrap stream as a diluent to reduce the concentration of non-aluminum constituents used in aluminum alloys. Since primary aluminum production requires approximately 10 times more energy than melting scrap, the bulk of the energy and carbon dioxide emissions for recycling are associated with using primary aluminum as a diluent. Eliminating the need for using primary aluminum as a diluent would dramatically reduce energy requirements, decrease carbon dioxide emissions, and increase scrap utilization in recycling. Electrorefining can be used to extract pure aluminum from mixed scrap. Some example applications include producing primary grade aluminum from specific scrap streams such as consumer packaging and mixed alloy saw chips, and recycling multi-alloy products such as brazing sheet. Electrorefining can also be used to extract valuable alloying elements such as Li from Al-Li mixed scrap. This project was aimed at developing an electrorefining process for purifying aluminum to reduce energy consumption and emissions by 75% compared to conventional technology. An electrolytic molten aluminum purification process, utilizing a horizontal membrane cell anode, was designed, constructed, operated and validated. The electrorefining technology could also be used to produce ultra-high purity aluminum for advanced materials applications. The technical objectives for this project were to: - Validate the membrane cell concept with a lab-scale electrorefining cell; - Determine if previously identified voltage increase issue for chloride electrolytes holds for a fluoride-based electrolyte system; - Assess the probability that voltage change issues can be solved; and - Conduct a market and economic analysis to assess commercial feasibility. The process was tested using three different binary alloy compositions (Al-2.0 wt.% Cu, Al-4.7 wt.% Si, Al-0.6 wt.% Fe) and a brazing sheet scrap composition (Al-2.8 wt.% Si-0.7 wt.% Fe-0.8 wt.% Mn),. Purification factors (defined as the initial impurity concentration divided by the final impurity concentration) of greater than 20 were achieved for silicon, iron, copper, and manganese. Cell performance was measured using its current and voltage characteristics and composition analysis of the anode, cathode, and electrolytes. The various cells were autopsied as part of the study. Three electrolyte systems tested were: LiCl-10 wt. % AlCl3, LiCl-10 wt. % AlCl3-5 wt.% AlF3 and LiF-10 wt.% AlF3. An extended four-day run with the LiCl-10 wt.% AlCl3-5 wt.% AlF3 electrolyte system was stable for the entire duration of the experiment, running at energy requirements about one third of the Hoopes and the conventional Hall-Heroult process. Three different anode membranes were investigated with respect to their purification performance and survivability: a woven graphite cloth with 0.05 cm nominal thickness & > 90 % porosity, a drilled rigid membrane with nominal porosity of 33%, and another drilled rigid graphite membrane with increased thickness. The latter rigid drilled graphite was selected as the most promising membrane design. The economic viability of the membrane cell to purify scrap is sensitive to primary & scrap aluminum prices, and the cost of electricity. In particular, it is sensitive to the differential between scrap and primary aluminum price which is highly variable and dependent on the scrap source. In order to be economically viable, any scrap post-processing technology in the U.S. market must have a total operating cost well below the scrap price differential of $0.20-$0.40 per lb to the London Metal Exchange (LME), a margin of 65%-85% of the LME price. The cost to operate the membrane cell is estimated to be < $0.24/lb of purified aluminum. The energy cost is estimated to be $0.05/lb of purified aluminum with the remaining costs being repair and maintenance, electrolyte, labor, taxes and depreciation. The bench-scale work on membrane purification cell process has demonstrated technological advantages and substantial energy and investment savings against other electrolytic processes. However, in order to realize commercial reality, the following items need to be fully investigated: 1. Further evaluation of a pure fluoride electrolyte. 2. Investigate alternative non conductive, more mechanically robust and chemically inert membrane candidates. 3. Optimized membrane cell design to understand contribution of fluid flow patterns and the mass transfer conditions. 4. Improve current efficiency and total metallic aluminum recovery from the cell. All Tasks and Milestones were completed successfully.

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  • Report No.: DOE/EE0003466
  • Grant Number: EE0003466
  • DOI: 10.2172/1029968 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 1029968
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc833476

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  • November 29, 2011

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • May 19, 2016, 3:16 p.m.

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  • July 22, 2016, 4:23 p.m.

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DeYoung, David; Wiswall, James & Wang, Cong. Membrane Purification Cell for Aluminum Recycling, report, November 29, 2011; United States. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc833476/: accessed September 19, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.