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Keywords:

  • copper;
  • electrowinning;
  • electrodialysis;
  • particulate bed;
  • squirrel-cage cell

Abstract

This work describes the design and optimization of a laboratory-scale copper electrowinning cell based on reactive electrodialysis that incorporates a cathode made of copper granules contained in a rotating squirrel-cage–type enclosure. It also incorporates the Fe2+ [RIGHTWARDS ARROW] Fe3+ + e anodic reaction to overcome the principal disadvantages of conventional electrowinning technology. With this design, anolyte (aqueous FeSO4 + H2SO4) and catholyte (aqueous CuSO4 + H2SO4) are kept separate by an anion membrane that prevents cation transport between the electrolytes. Experiments were carried out to characterize cell performance under various conditions, and results show that energy requirements with this cell can be 25% lower than conventional industrial values. The same results also show that the squirrel-cage cell can be used to electrowin copper from impoverished electrolytes. © 2005 American Institute of Chemical Engineers AIChE J, 2005