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Invited Review

Interactions of molten salts with cathode products in the FFC Cambridge Process

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  • Received: 14 July 2020Revised: 22 September 2020Accepted: 30 September 2020Available online: 1 October 2020
  • Molten salts play multiple important roles in the electrolysis of solid metal compounds, particularly oxides and sulfides, for extraction of metals or alloys. Some of these roles are positive in assisting the extraction of metals, such as dissolving the oxide or sulfide anions, and transporting them to the anode for discharging, and offering the high temperature to lower the kinetic barrier to break the metal-oxygen or metal-sulfur bond. However, there are also unfavourable effects, including electronic conduction and significant capability of dissolving oxygen and carbon dioxide gases. In addition, although molten salts are relatively simple in terms of composition, physical properties and decomposition reactions at inert electrodes, in comparison with aqueous electrolytes, the high temperatures of molten salts may promote unwanted electrode-electrolyte interactions. This article reviews briefly and selectively research and development of the FFC Cambridge Process in the past two decades, focusing on observations, understanding and solutions of various interactions between the molten salts and the cathodes at different reduction states, including perovskitisation, non-wetting of molten salts on metals, carbon contamination to products, formation of oxychlorides and calcium intermetallic compounds, and oxygen transfer from air to the cathode product mediated by oxide anions in the molten salt.
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Interactions of molten salts with cathode products in the FFC Cambridge Process

  • Corresponding author:

    George Z. Chen    E-mail: george.chen@nottingham.ac.uk

  • 1. Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, University of Nottingham, Nottingham NG7 2RD, UK
  • 2. Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering, Faculty of Science and Engineering, University of Nottingham Ningbo China, Ningbo 315100, China

Abstract: Molten salts play multiple important roles in the electrolysis of solid metal compounds, particularly oxides and sulfides, for extraction of metals or alloys. Some of these roles are positive in assisting the extraction of metals, such as dissolving the oxide or sulfide anions, and transporting them to the anode for discharging, and offering the high temperature to lower the kinetic barrier to break the metal-oxygen or metal-sulfur bond. However, there are also unfavourable effects, including electronic conduction and significant capability of dissolving oxygen and carbon dioxide gases. In addition, although molten salts are relatively simple in terms of composition, physical properties and decomposition reactions at inert electrodes, in comparison with aqueous electrolytes, the high temperatures of molten salts may promote unwanted electrode-electrolyte interactions. This article reviews briefly and selectively research and development of the FFC Cambridge Process in the past two decades, focusing on observations, understanding and solutions of various interactions between the molten salts and the cathodes at different reduction states, including perovskitisation, non-wetting of molten salts on metals, carbon contamination to products, formation of oxychlorides and calcium intermetallic compounds, and oxygen transfer from air to the cathode product mediated by oxide anions in the molten salt.

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