Arizona long has been a leader in the copper mining industry, but traditional processes for extracting the metal from the ore release toxins into the environment through seepage, air pollution and, in the worst cases, tailings pond failures.
Now University of Arizona College of Engineering professors Dominic Gervasio and principal research specialist Hassan Elsentriecy from the Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering have invented a toxin-free method using high-temperature molten salts to extract the metal from raw copper ore.
At the same time, in collaboration with Peiwen “Perry” Li from the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, this team was inventing new ways to utilize these same high-temperature molten salts to recover and store the vast amounts of heat energy created in metal refining and smelting production.
Together, the complementary inventions — seven in all — represent an opportunity to make big impacts in both mining and energy storage.
Funded in part by serial entrepreneur and co-inventor Abraham Jalbout, the team worked with Tech Launch Arizona, the office of the UA that commercializes the inventions stemming from University research, to bring the technologies to the market via a startup company, MetOxs Electrochemical.
Current methods for extracting copper from ore involve chemical processes that produce huge mountains of waste mine tailings and lake-size waste water collections, accumulating high levels of toxins such as arsenic, cadmium and sulfuric acid.
The method of metal refining developed by Gervasio, Elsentriecy and Li — being commercialized via MetOxs — works by heating the ore using molten salts to temperatures exceeding 1,500 degrees Farenheit such that the copper is separated from the ore for easy collection.
The technique is transferrable to any mineral extraction process, which, according to Jalbout, “makes it a game-changer in terms of its robust nature and wide opportunity for implementation and impact.”
“What makes this truly unique is use of a very specific salt formula that has the ability to strip the copper from the ore without the use of water and dangerous chemicals,” says Bob Sleeper, Tech Launch Arizona licensing manager for the College of Engineering.
As a parallel benefit, the technology also allows for the collection of surplus heat and using it to power steam turbines and generators.
The process is similar — but much hotter — than that used for refining aluminum ore. Prior to this team’s research, such processing was not possible.
MetOxs CEO Jalbout sees great opportunity in the venture and is currently in discussions with multiple companies to scale up the process.
“Our technology represents a change of monumental importance for the viability and sustainability of the mining sector,” Jalbout says. “As we have seen in the industrial revolution, this is the new era the industry must strive for.”
The Latest on: High-temperature molten salts
via Google News
The Latest on: High-temperature molten salts
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Using giant vats of molten salt and antifreeze under the codename ... system is produced most efficiently when there is a wider temperature difference between the hot and cold vats.
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"One weakness of carbon fibers is that they are burned easily if you have high enough temperatures and oxygen ... single-step process that starts with melting a salt that is very similar ...
- Molten salt coating takes carbon fiber closer to non-flammabilityon July 25, 2021 at 5:00 pm
One scientists have been working to address is carbon fiber's tendency to burn at high temperatures ... coating that self-forms within molten salt. By some measures, carbon fiber is already ...
- Progress on Kairos Power’s Advanced Nuclear Reactor Demonstration Projecton July 22, 2021 at 10:45 am
Molten fluoride salts are said to have excellent chemical stability, and great capacity for transferring heat at high temperature and retaining fission products. Various U.S. reactor studies have ...
- New molten salt battery for grid-scale storage runs at low temp and coston July 20, 2021 at 5:00 pm
Molten salt batteries shape as a more cost-effective solution, which use electrodes kept in a molten state with the help of high temperatures. This is something that the Sandia scientists have ...
- Could China’s molten salt nuclear reactor be a clean, safe source of power?on July 18, 2021 at 3:47 pm
It is safer than traditional nuclear technology because in the event of an accident the molten salt will fall into an underground container. “Due to its high melting point … the molten salt ...
- X-ray scattering reveals ion clustering of dilute chromium species in molten chloride mediumon May 1, 2021 at 5:00 am
Enhancing the solar energy storage and power delivery afforded by emerging molten salt-based technologies requires a fundamental understanding of the complex interplay between structure and dynamics ...
- Molten Salts and Ionic Liquids Discussion Groupon January 28, 2021 at 3:42 pm
To actively encourages younger scientists working in the field of high and low temperature molten salt chemistry. Reduced registration fees for all MSDG Conferences. Student bursaries to attend other ...
- Heat Treatment Salts Informationon August 18, 2020 at 11:57 pm
Hubbard-Hall manufactures molten heat treatment or heat treating salts to serve both the metal treating and rubber curing industries. These molten salts are manufactured using raw materials with the ...
- OP-ED: Molten salt reactors: The future of power?on August 4, 2020 at 9:51 am
If for some reason the high temperature persists (which is extremely unlikely), a plug of salt at the bottom of the reactor will melt, and the molten salt (containing the fuel) will drain into many ...
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