The Preparation Of Chromium Metal By A Sealed, Cold-Hearth, Plasma-Assisted Aluminothermic Method
Organization: The Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Jan 1, 1996
The efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the aluminothermic reduction process in the production of ferro-alloys and 'pure' metals depends strongly on appropriate balancing of the process energy required. Insufficient energy results in a poor metal yield, while over-supply can result in excessive fuming and possibly even ejection of the reactor contents in a potentially dangerous 'thermite bomb' reaction. This situation becomes even more critical when the suitability of limited quantities of oxide from new sources must be evaluated, dictating smaller-scale testwork. The resulting higher relative heat losses from the system complicates control of the energy balance, and usually requires the addition of thermal boosters or reactant preheating in order to sustain an autothermic process. This often detracts from the quality of the metal product, and adds to the hazards of batch aluminothermic- reduction testing. The development of a small-scale method (producing less than 2,5 kg of metal) for the plasma-assisted aluminothermic reduction of chromium oxide that overcomes such difficulties is described. The technique involves the use of a sealed 50 kVA plasma-arc furnace to provide controlled electrical ignition and supplementary energy to the reactants contained in a water-cooled copper crucible. The application of the method to the evaluation of the aluminothermic production of pure chromium metal from a unique chromic oxide source is reported.