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Journal of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy

On-line version ISSN 2411-9717
Print version ISSN 0038-223X

J. S. Afr. Inst. Min. Metall. vol.111 n.5 Johannesburg May. 2011




The effect of electrolyte additives on cathode surface quality during copper electrorefining



T.A. Muhlare; D.R. Groot

Department of Materials Science and Metallurgical Engineering, University of Pretoria, South Africa




The use of electrolyte additives to smoothen cathode deposits during copper deposition is practised worldwide. These additives absorb on the cathode surface and take part in the electrochemical crystallization process. However, these additives also affect the quality of the cathodes when they are inadequately controlled.
Electrolyte additives used by Palabora are glue, thiourea, Avitone and chloride. Their effects were determined on cathode quality, the size of the current density region that gives the desired compact morphology, and current efficiency. This was done in a small-scale cell.
Small cells have different hydrodynamics from industrial-scale cells, which makes it difficult to simulate the operation of industrial cells in a laboratory. The approach used here was to use a rotating cylinder cathode to attain controlled hydrodynamics. The rotation speed was chosen to give a diffusion layer thickness that is similar to that of an industrial-scale cell.
It was shown that even fairly small changes in the additive levels can significantly affect the cathode morphology, and the current density range over which this morphology can be obtained.

Keywords: Copper, electrorefining, glue, thiourea, avitone and chloride



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* Paper written on project work carried out in partial fulfilment of B. Eng Metallurgical Engineering and presented at the Student Colloquium, November 2010

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