Additonal authors: Miskovic, I.. Book title: Proceedings of the 58th Conference of Metallurgists Hosting Copper 2019. Chapter: . Chapter title:
Solvent extraction (SX) is a widely used method for the extraction of copper from pregnant leach solutions or other ionic solutions in hydrometallurgical applications. About 17% of total refined copper production worldwide is produced using SX followed by electrowinning (EW). Conventional SX units, such as mixer-settlers, consume a large amount of extractant, offer poor process control and yield low extraction efficiency. Extraction efficiency is poor due to low specific interface area, crud formation, emulsification, and slow phase separation stage. Micro solvent extraction (micro-SX) is a rapidly developing technology that provides an opportunity for improved process control, higher extraction efficiency, lower residence time and, as such, has a potential to reduce the environmental footprint of SX operation. In this research, extraction of copper ions in an acetate buffer media is investigated using D2EHPA with kerosene as a diluent. Chemical factors such as extractant concentration and ionic concentration of aqueous phase are varied to determine the optimum conditions. Subsequently, the extraction efficiency and reaction time of new micro-SX reactors are compared against previous bulk SX studies. Extraction in the microfluidic reactor was observed to be faster with a residence time more than an order of magnitude lesser than bulk SX. This study forms a prelude for developing new modular micro-SX units which will enable continuous, effective, and safe operation on a large scale. In future studies, numerical and analytical models validated through this work will help eliminate rigorous experimentation and enable faster design and fabrication of micro-SX units.
Conventional industrial solvent extraction (SX) units such as mixer-settlers, extraction columns present various disadvantages. Low specific interfacial area, crud formation, and emulsification in industrial reactors lead to long extraction times and severely hamper extraction efficiency (Priest et al., 2011; Chen et al., 2017). Microfluidic extraction considerably improves upon the current extraction practices by (1) creating a large surface to volume ratio that enables rapid mass transfer across the interface, (2) better process control, and (3) easier separation of phases (Kashid, Renken, & Kiwi-Minsker, 2011; Ciceri, Perera, & Stevens, 2014). These factors establish micro-SX as a crucial mode for process intensification. Although, a micro SX unit has significantly low processing volume than conventional extraction methods, their throughput can be increased via massive parallelisation (‘numbering up’), which is an area of active research (Darekar, Singh, Mukhopadhyay, & Shenoy, 2016a; Kriel, Woollam, Gordon, Grant, & Priest, 2016).