Mechanistic investigation into the electrolytic formation of iron from iron(III) oxide in molten sodium hydroxide
Iron(III) oxide tablets were electrolytically reduced to iron in molten sodium hydroxide at 530 °C and recovered to produce iron with 2 wt.% oxygen suitable for re-melting. The cell was operated at 1.7 V and an inert nickel anode was used. The thermodynamics and mechanism of the process was also investigated. By controlling the activity of sodium oxide in the melt, the cell could be operated below the decomposition voltage of the electrolyte with the net sequence of events being the ionization of oxygen, its subsequent transport to the anode and discharge leaving behind iron at the cathode. A reduction time of 1 h was achieved for a 1 g oxide tablet (close to the theoretical reduction time predicted by Faraday’s laws) at a current density of 520 mA cm−2 with iron phase yields of ∼90 wt.%. The energy consumption was 2.8 kWh kg−1.
KeywordsMolten salt Sodium hydroxide Electro-deoxidation Iron Inert anode
The authors are grateful to the EPSRC for funding (Platform Grant GR/S58447/01) the work in this project.
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