Solid oxide membrane (SOM) process for ytterbium and silicon production from their oxides
MetadataShow full item record
The Solid oxide membrane (SOM) electrolysis is an innovative green technology that produces technologically important metals directly from their respective oxides. A yttria-stabilized zirconia (YSZ) tube, closed at one end is employed to separate the molten salt containing dissolved metal oxides from the anode inside the YSZ tube. When the applied electric potential between the cathode in the molten salt and the anode exceeds the dissociation potential of the desired metal oxides, oxygen ions in the molten salt migrate through the YSZ membrane and are oxidized at the anode while the dissolved metal cations in the flux are reduced to the desired metal at the cathode. Compared with existing metal production processes, the SOM process has many advantages such as one unit operation, less energy consumption, lower capital costs and zero carbon emission. Successful implementation of the SOM electrolysis process would provide a way to mitigate the negative environmental impact of the metal industry. Successful demonstration of producing ytterbium (Yb) and silicon (Si) directly from their respective oxides utilizing the SOM electrolysis process is presented in this dissertation. During the SOM electrolysis process, Yb2O3 was reduced to Yb metal on an inert cathode. The melting point of the supporting electrolyte (LiF-YbF3-Yb2O3) was determined by differential thermal analysis (DTA). Static stability testing confirmed that the YSZ tube was stable with the flux at operating temperature. Yb metal deposit on the cathode was confirmed by scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and energy dispersive x-ray spectroscopy (EDS). During the SOM electrolysis process for silicon production, a fluoride based flux based on BaF2, MgF2, and YF3 was engineered to serve as the liquid electrolyte for dissolving silicon dioxide. YSZ tube was used to separate the molten salt from an anode current collector in the liquid silver. Liquid tin was chosen as cathode to dissolve the reduced silicon during SOM electrolysis. After electrolysis, upon cooling, silicon crystals precipitated out from the Si-Sn liquid alloy. The presence of high-purity silicon crystals in the liquid tin cathode was confirmed by SEM/EDS. The fluoride based flux was also optimized to improve YSZ membrane stability for long-term use.