The Historical Development of Electrolyte Additives and Their Specific Role and Influence on Cathode Quality

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

Hiskey, J. Brent

At present, approximately 80 % of the worlds mine production of copper is achieved by smelting and electrorefining. The principle aim of copper electrorefining is to satisfy the large demand for extremely pure copper. It is remarkable that high quality copper cathodes with the required purity (99.99+% Cu, ASTM B115-10) and structural characteristics (i.e. deposit density and morphological texture) are produced from impure copper anodes dissolved in electrolytes containing a variety of impurities. This is accomplished with the proper control of operating parameters such as: current density; temperature; copper and sulfuric acid concentration; agitation; substrate preparation; and the application of electrolyte additives. The basic elements of the electrolysis of copper have not changed significantly over the past 150 years since the early developments of James Elkington. Importantly, our fundamental understanding of the underlying electrochemistry has advanced considerably. This is especially true regarding our knowledge of the mechanistic role of additives during the electrocrystallization of copper. This is a very complex subject and modern electrochemical techniques and the development of surface characterization and imaging instruments has helped immensely in our ultimate understanding of how additives control the deposit structure and morphology. The purpose of this paper is to review the historical development and application of electrolyte additives in copper electrorefining and to examine our current knowledge regarding their use. INTRODUCTION The first transatlantic telegraph cable was completed in August 1858. Regrettably, this cable failed shortly after the initial connections. After several more failed attempts, improvements in materials and copper quality resulted in successful communication between Europe and America on July 28, 1866. In many ways this hallmark event demonstrated the need for high purity copper. The first copper refinery in the world was commissioned in May 1869 in Pembrey, South Wales by partners Josiah Mason and James Balleney Elkington. (Historical Note). The 1865 and 1868 British patents issued to James Balleney Elkington were the foundation for the first commercial production of high purity electrolytic copper (Elkington, 1865, 1869, 1870). This important achievement was made possible primarily by the invention of the dynamo which was based on the fundamental operating principles advanced by Michael Faraday. A symbiotic relationship between copper refining and the dynamo was henceforth established. The dynamo provided electric current for electrolytic refining of copper and the electrorefining tankhouse provided pure copper which was required for the generation and transmission of electricity.
Keywords: Copper 2019, COM2019