New technology to revolutionise aluminium smelting
A REVOLUTIONARY smelting process could dramatically reduce BSL's carbon footprint within the next ten years.
Alcoa, Rio Tinto and Apple are launching a new joint venture, Elysis, to replace all direct greenhouse gas emissions produced by the aluminium smelting process.
According to Rio Tinto CEO J.S. Jacques, "This will be the most significant innovation in the industry for more than a century."
The breakthrough technology developed by Alcoa has been used at a factory in America since 2009 and has produced 700 tons of aluminium using the new process.
Traditional smelting uses electrolysis via highly charged carbon anode rods to separate the base elements of alumina, oxygen and aluminium.
During the process the anode rods take part in the resulting chemical reaction producing seven other by-products including carbon and sulfur dioxide and fluorides as by-products.
The new process replaces the carbon in the anodes with patented materials to make inert anodes.
A spokesperson for Rio Tinto said the new anodes allow electrolysis to take place without participating in the chemical reaction, "Instead of being consumed."
As a result, we separate alumina into its two elements, aluminium and pure oxygen.
Along with being environmentally friendly, Elysis' technology lowers operating costs by 15 percent and increases production by the same percentage.
The discovery of inert anodes has been a long term goal for aluminium industry and Elysis expects to offer the technology to the market by 2024.
Existing smelters can be retro-fitted with the new anodes.