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MEI Online: Electrometallurgy: Latest News: November 11th 2003

:: Chance Find Improves Nickel Process  

An unexpected discovery by an Australian scientist at the AJ Parker Cooperative Research Centre for Hydrometallurgy has opened the way for a major enhancement in the processing of Australia 's $2.8 billion nickel production.

Dr Daniel Kittelty of the Parker Centre has found that increasing the level of aluminium in the nickel solution used in electrowinning processing actually resulted in a smoother, stronger nickel sheet being deposited.

The Cooperative Research Centre Association (CRCA) said other metals could contaminate nickel forming on an electrode during the extraction process, sometimes with disastrous consequences for the electrowinning plant and added costs for producers.

Kittelty was investigating the role of aluminium, copper and other contaminants in the nickel solution, as part of his doctoral research.

CRCA said this discovery -on which a provisional patent has been lodged - has given Australia 's growing nickel industry a new way to control and optimise its electrowinning process.

"This indicates that nickel plants can reduce strain build-up in nickel deposits by maintaining tight control over the conditions in the solution, and by replacing the normal boric acid additive with small concentrations of aluminium," the association said.

Although he has not yet had a chance to explore the consequences downstream to metal products, Kittelty believes it is likely that a higher quality nickel sheet will also result in superior quality and stronger fabricated nickel products, giving Australian producers a further competitive edge.



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