New sensors in pressure hydrometallurgy

Funding Details
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
  • Grant type: Discovery Grants Program - Individual
  • Years: 2010/11 to 2011/12
  • Total Funding: $56,040
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Project Summary

With increasing global demand for raw materials, the Canadian metals industry is expanding and investing in new projects around the world. Pressure Hydrometallurgy is a technology used for metal recovery from ores and concentrates that employs high temperatures and pressures on aqueous media. It has become a very attractive option in the metals industry as it offers several advantages over atmospheric processes. The present research programme constitutes an on-going effort that focuses on theoretical advances and experimental applications of high-temperature (100-300oC) concentrated electrolyte systems directly related to pressure hydrometallurgical processes. Because chemical reactions in these processes occur very fast, often under very corrosive environments, and in the presence of solid mineral particles, there is a great need to develop robust sensors that can measure key process variables on line and effect process monitoring and control. The present research programme, aims at developing novel instrumentation and new chemical sensors that will work on-line and at process conditions. We have already proven the principle of a conductivity-based sensor capable of monitoring free acid concentration in corrosive slurries. We have also adapted a ceramic membrane electrode that was originally built for the nuclear power industry to the needs of the Hydrometallurgical industry. Coupled with our concurrent chemical modelling and simulation studies on high temperature aqueous systems, we convert these sensors from laboratory successes into industrial tools. To do so, we will develop the use of electrodeless conductivity sensors in high temperature slurry systems. We will also overcome the fragility of the ceramic membrane electrode by implementing metal/metal oxide electrodes. We will test and develop new sensors to measure REDOX potential. The project will train graduate and undergraduate/summer students in sophisticated electrochemical techniques applied under difficult experimental conditions. This work contributes to the Canadian economy by generating technology that renders metal producers more competitive in the global markets to satisfy the demand for primary metals in the years ahead.