MIT researchers have discovered a unique and better way for metal smelting. It is also much environment-friendly compared to the methods present now. This stands as an evidence to the widely believed saying, “Failure is the stepping stone to success.” In fact, it depicts that there might be a success in the failure itself.
The researchers came up with the better method for metal smelting while experimenting to discover better liquid battery chemistry. Smelting is the process of extracting metal from its ore with the help of heating and melting.
In Nature Communications MIT researchers have revealed how they ended up with discovering a better method for metal smelting . The setup for the experiment included electrochemistry of liquid batteries. In the paper published the researchers explained how they investigated into placing the second electrolyte between the positive and negative electrodes.
As the setup was powered up, instead of charging up the battery, electrolysis occurred. Electrolysis is a process of chemical decomposition produced by passing an electric current through a liquid or solution containing ions.
Electrolysis has resulted in purifying the antimony sulfide that was used. The placing of a good ionic conductor on top of the antimony sulfide allowed electrolysis, creating a pool of 99.9% pure antimony.
The discovery could lead to metal-production systems that are much less expensive and that virtually eliminate the greenhouse gas emissions associated with most traditional metal smelting.
Though the metal smelted here is the antimony, researchers believe that metals like copper could undergo the same process with much less environmental cost than established methods. If such a process is found successful in smelting industrial metals, the costs of producing such metals can be reduced significantly. Moreover, they can be produced in a better way which is also environmental friendly.
The research was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, Advanced Research Projects-Energy (ARPA-E), and French energy company Total S.A. through the MIT Energy Initiative.