Technological Advances in the Electrolytic Cell, Maintenance and Replacement

Additonal authors: . 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

Dufresne, Robert P.

Electrolytic cells are used in electrowinning (EW) and electrorefining (ER) of non-ferrous metals such as zinc and copper, and are a critical part of the purification process. The cell is a large basin and has an electrolyte or aqueous solution, an anode and a cathode, an insulator, and incoming high amperage. Cells are exposed to unfavourable internal and external factors that have a direct impact on their lifespan. Their deterioration can be caused by incorrect polarity, insufficient magnitude, their construction, tension stress, thermal shock, corrosion and other, and their maintenance and replacement can be time-consuming, costly, difficult and environmentally unsafe. Occupational health hazards and dangers posed by the maintenance and removal of the cell should also be taken into consideration. Modifying the design and fabrication method of the cell, using chemical-resistant reinforcement, and increasing tensile and mechanical strength will defer maintenance for a very long time. This can be achieved by a double hull system that comprises full-length composite reinforcement, polymer concrete reinforced with fiberglass pultruded rods and rebars, fiberglass structural layers, and special resin matrices. This will provide protection against thermal shocks, corrosion, leakage, cracks. The design of this cell incorporates a lifting system that will afford quick and easy install without having to move a great number of cells in close proximity, since it is strong enough to stand on its own and not have to be bonded to adjacent cells. As well, the cell can be anchored with ease as it remains stable. This is especially important because space is limited to lift and manoeuver between the cell and the double-girder overhead travelling cranes. The lifting system can also prevent electrocution and loss in product quality, while increasing efficiency and safety in the workplace. Considerable savings in terms of production downtime are also part of the equation. INTRODUCTION Maintenance and replacement of electrolytic cells in electrowinning and electrorefining are operations that pose many challenges, health and safety concerns, and give rise to substantial operational costs. These problems have existed since time immemorial. Electrolytic cells are made of conventional concrete or polymer concrete, and because of the very nature of their composition and their exposure to severe and environmental conditions, their lifespan is short. Although polymer concrete is composed of high-quality materials, and has good thermal stability and resistance to chemicals, nonetheless, maintenance is frequently required in order to maintain the integrity of the cell and to ensure the quality of refined metals. Repairing concrete is a non-permanent solution as cracks will reappear, and every repair weakens the integrity of the cell a bit more, until it reaches a knock- down point and the structure is compromised. The cell needs to be replaced, otherwise the cell will collapse.
Keywords: Copper 2019, COM2019