Traditional ore processing is generally carried out using either hydrometallurgy (high cost, low volume, reasonable selectivity) or pyrometallurgy (lower cost, high volume, low selectivity). Both methods require a large energy input and produce large volumes of waste e.g. slags or waste water. This project will seek to use a new type of solvent process which will be more selective, use less energy, and be more environmentally compatible.
Electrocatalytic and electrolytic methods can be used to solubilize metals and metallic compounds from complex matricies. Ionic liquids can also increase the selectivity and efficiency of metal extraction and winning. The main issue is that this approach necessitates a new approach to reactor design. The majority of processes use batch style tanks or heap leaching to extract metals from their ores.
The project will address a diverse group of ore minerals commonly encountered in important hydrothermal deposit types such as epithermal gold and porphyry copper (including the world-class Lepanto deposit of one of our partners). These minerals, and the chemical elements they host, pose both challenges and opportunities for mineral processing operations.
This project will explore the electrochemistry of common sulfosalt minerals in ionic liquids to assess the potential for new environmentally-benign approaches to processing. It will suit a student, either with a degree in mineral processing/applied geology/geochemistry/mineralogy who is keen to develop skills in chemistry, or with a degree in chemistry who is keen to apply their skills in the mineral processing industry.
You will need to design new ionic liquids to selectively extract specific metals from a concentrate and selectively precipitate the base metals enabling efficient recovery of the more strategic elements. The challenge will be to control material flow to optimise both mineral dissolution and metal recovery while using the minimum volume of solvent. You will also carry out techno-economic analysis during the design stage to ensure that it is viable on a practical scale. The Green metrics of the process will be calculated to support the objectives of improving sustainability and decreasing environmental impact.
Abbott A. P., Frisch G., Hartley J. Ryder K. S. Processing of metals and metal oxides using ionic liquids Green Chem., 2011, 13, 471–481.
Abbott A. P., Harris R. C., Holyoak F., Frisch G., Hartley J. Jenkin G. R. T., Electrocatalytic Recovery of Elements from Complex Mixtures using Deep Eutectic Solvents Green Chem., 2015, 17, 2172 – 2179.
Jenkin GRT, Al-Bassam AZM, Harris RC, Abbott AP, Smith DJ, Holwell DA, Chapman RJ, Stanley CJ (2015). The application of deep eutectic solvent ionic liquids for environmentally-friendly dissolution and recovery of precious metals. Minerals Engineering, 2016, 87, 18-24.
Abbott A. P., Al-Bassam A. Z. M., Goddard A., Harris R. C., Jenkin G. R. T., Nisbet F. J. and Wieland M., Dissolution of Pyrite and other Fe-S-As minerals using Deep Eutectic Solvents, Green Chem, 2017, 19, 2225 – 2233.
UK Bachelor Degree with at least 2:1 in a relevant subject or overseas equivalent.
Available for UK and EU applicants only.
Applicants must meet requirements for both academic qualifications and residential eligibility: http://www.nerc.ac.uk/skills/postgrad/
How to Apply:
Please follow refer to the How to Apply section at http://www2.le.ac.uk/study/research/funding/centa/how-to-apply-for-a-centa-project
and use the Chemistry Apply button to submit your PhD application.
Upload your CENTA Studentship Form in the proposal section of the application form.
In the funding section of the application please indicate you wish to be considered for NERC CENTA Studentship.
Under the proposal section please provide the name of the supervisor and project title/project code you want to apply for.