Electrolysis of a molten semiconductor
Author(s)Yin, Huayi; Chung, Brice Hoani Valentin; Sadoway, Donald Robert
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Metals cannot be extracted by electrolysis of transition-metal sulfides because as liquids they are semiconductors, which exhibit high levels of electronic conduction and metal dissolution. Herein by introduction of a distinct secondary electrolyte, we reveal a high-throughput electro-desulfurization process that directly converts semiconducting molten stibnite (Sb[subscript 2]S[subscript 3]) into pure (99.9%) liquid antimony and sulfur vapour. At the bottom of the cell liquid antimony pools beneath cathodically polarized molten stibnite. At the top of the cell sulfur issues from a carbon anode immersed in an immiscible secondary molten salt electrolyte disposed above molten stibnite, thereby blocking electronic shorting across the cell. As opposed to conventional extraction practices, direct sulfide electrolysis completely avoids generation of problematic fugitive emissions (CO[subscript 2], CO and SO[subscript 2]), significantly reduces energy consumption, increases productivity in a single-step process (lower capital and operating costs) and is broadly applicable to a host of electronically conductive transition-metal chalcogenides.
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Materials Processing Center; Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Materials Science and Engineering
Nature Publishing Group
Yin, Huayi, Brice Chung, and Donald R. Sadoway. “Electrolysis of a Molten Semiconductor.” Nature Communications 7 (2016): 12584.
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