Current Density Increase within the Last 150 Years

Additonal authors: Hanel, M. B.. Book title: Proceedings of the 58th Conference of Metallurgists Hosting Copper 2019. Chapter: . Chapter title:

Proceedings, Vol. Proceedings of the 58th Conference of Metallurgists Hosting Copper 2019, 2019

Filzwieser, A.

The paper describes the current density increase within the last 150 years. From the beginning in 1885 at 30 A/m² up to the highest used current densities nowadays at 420 A/m² towards future pathways were even 1000 A/m² can be achievable. A short tour through history will highlight the milestones of the process of electrolytic refining of copper. Besides the improvement of the existing technology, the biggest changes leading to higher possible current densities are linked to the introduction of the ISA stainless steel plates and the introduction of the parallel flow principle. Furthermore, the parameters influencing the limitations regarding current density and therefore the practical used current density as well as the influence from the chemical composition of the electrolyte is discussed. Finally, the possibility of further increasing the current densities by enhancing the relative movement between electrolyte and electrode will give an outlook about the future of the copper electrolysis process. INTRODUCTION The current density is the most important characteristic to describe the productivity of a copper refining electrolysis besides the characteristic number for the electrical efficiency. Over the last 150 years, current density has risen from a few amperes per square meter to over 400 A/m² without any significant change in the principle of electrolytic refining. This increase in current density is documented exemplary by the electrolysis of Montanwerke Brixlegg in Austria (Brixlegg, 1963, 2013). The very beginning of the technology of electrolytic refining of copper was first patented in England by James Elkington in 1865 and the first electrolytic copper refinery was built in Newark, New Jersey, in 1883 (Armstrong, 1999). The secondary smelter Montanwerke Brixlegg, Austria, has been operating an electrolysis plant since 1884. In 1988, the third "Mount Isa" electrolysis plant worldwide and the first in Europe was put into operation in Brixlegg. Since 2010, the so-called high-current electrolysis (parallel flow METTOP-BRX Technology) with a current density of approx. 400 A/m² has been operated in half of the electrolysis process.
Keywords: Copper 2019, COM2019