Development of wettable cathode for aluminium smelting

Authors: Heidari, Hamed
Advisor: Darvishi Alamdari, HoushangDubé, Dominique
Abstract: Hall-Héroult electrolysis process has been the major method for world production of primary aluminum since its invention in 1887. The use of wettable cathodes instead of usual carbon cathodes has been proposed to reduce more than 10% of the electrical energy consumption of the process which constitutes more than 35% of the aluminum production costs. However, due to the severe conditions of the electrolysis bath, the fabrication of a proper wettable cathode has been a challenge during the last 60 years and no commercial wettable cathode is available in the world market yet. In this project, a novel porous ceramic by pressureless sintering of TiB2 with pre-alloyed Ti-Fe additives was developed. This material showed to meet the required properties to be used as wettable cathode. In this doctoral study, the pressureless sintering in the presence of liquid phase was selected as the consolidation method allowing the fabrication of large parts at relatively lower temperatures and costs. Experimental efforts were made in order to understand the effect of different processing conditions including additive composition, sintering temperature, milling time and pre-alloying of additives on the physical, mechanical and metallurgical properties as well as wetting behavior and stability in liquid aluminum of specimens. Based on the results of the adjustment of processing parameters, the selected material was fabricated by mixing of TiB2 powder and 10 wt% pre-alloyed 7Ti-3Fe additive in high energy ball mill for 30 min, compacting under the pressure of 150 MPa to prepare the green parts, and sintering under Ar/H2 atmosphere at 1650C for 1 h. Uniform crack-free microstructure with even distribution of pores as well as maximum relative density of 91%, bending strength of 300 MPa and electrical resistivity of 54 µΩ.cm were accordingly obtained. Aluminum drop wetted the surface of the specimen very well and isothermal solidification occurred during its penetration due to the interaction with the metallic additives and the formation of TiAl3 and Fe4Al13 phases. Despite of the dissolution of metallic additives, this material showed excellent stability after being exposed to molten aluminum at 960C for up to 5 days by maintaining its shape and no sign of expansion or swelling was observed. Microstructural investigation revealed the precipitation of inter-particle bridges of TiB2 nature in the presence of Ti-Fe liquid phase during sintering forming a TiB2 skeleton, which is the cause of the stability of the developed material in liquid aluminum. This material is proposed as a reliable candidate for application as wettable cathodes in aluminum smelting.
Document Type: Thèse de doctorat
Issue Date: 2012
Open Access Date: 19 April 2018
Grantor: Université Laval
Collection:Thèses et mémoires

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