Extracting Magnesium from Aluminum Scrap through Electrorefining
Magnesium is an increasingly important material in the automotive sector. It is strong and lightweight –one-third lighter than aluminum, and two-thirds lighter than steel. Its use reduces vehicle weight and improves fuel economy in conventional cars and trucks, and also enables the deployment of hybrid and electric technologies.
But magnesium is about 75 percent more expensive than steel, and 33 percent more expensive than aluminum. And like all mined metals, its supply is limited.
Magnesium is abundant in domestic aluminum scrap. But for now, there is no economically viable way to recover it on an industrial scale.
Phinix, LLC has experimentally demonstrated technical, economic and market feasibility of its patented, trademarked and chlorine-free RE-12TM process for producing magnesium from magnesium-bearing aluminum scrap. Enormous technical challenges remain in designing and running a pilot, electrorefining cells at scale, and accommodating the need for high production rates given the realities of magnetohydrodynamic circulation.
This SBV Pilot will leverage Argonne National Laboratory's (ANL's) capabilities to reduce technical risks, save time, and trim costs of scale-up and commercialization. ANL's computer and mathematical modeling capabilities will cut the cost and time needed to obtain design data and parameters, and its advanced experimental facilities will validate the results of computer and mathematical modeling. The data gathered will be used to validate computer models that will lead to the design and commercialization of pilot- and industrial-scale magnesium electrorefining cells.
PROJECT INNOVATION + ADVANTAGES
At present, there are no industrial processes that recover magnesium from magnesium-bearing aluminum scrap. This leads to chlorination and export of scrap, and importation of primary magnesium, much of it from China.
Phinix's RE-12TM process, in which molten aluminum alloy is continuously recirculated between the aluminum scrap remelting furnace and a magnesium electrorefining cell, extracts magnesium from the aluminum melt. This allows recovery of magnesium at existing secondary aluminum remelting facilities. The magnesium can then be cast into ingots for use in the automotive market for vehicle lightweighting.
Low cost, energy-efficient and environmentally aware recovery of magnesium from scrap will grow the economy and create jobs. Phinix's projections suggest full implementation of its process at 20 RE-12TM equipped plants would create over 100 manufacturing jobs, annually save $500 million in scrap costs, and generate $80 million in magnesium-product revenue. And through this SBV Pilot, national labs will develop additional capabilities in the electrorefining of light metals, to the benefit of the U.S. light metals manufacturing sector.
Increasing the amount of magnesium used to manufacture vehicles will result in cars and trucks that weigh less and use less fuel. This enhances national security and energy independence, decreases pollution, and boosts competitiveness in the global automotive market.
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