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Comment Processing & Handling

Very rapid cooling enables a new way to produce magnesium

By Paul Grad |

A carbothermal process for obtaining magnesium — developed by CSIRO (www.csiro.au) Light Metals Flagship (South Clayton, Victoria, Australia) — overcomes previous limitations to commercial viability. For several years, magnesium has been produced mainly by electrolytic routes, from magnesium chloride sources such as seawater and natural brines. More recently, world production has been mainly in China, using the Pidgeon process, where ferrosilicon reduces magnesia from calcined dolomite under vacuum. One of the main problems with those methods is the reversion of Mg and CO2 to magnesium oxide and carbon as the vapors cool. The CSIRO process, called MagSonic, uses shock-quenching to achieve extremely rapid cooling — up to 106°C/s — of the gaseous reaction products and prevent the back reaction. According to CSIRO, carbothermic reduction is a much cheaper reduction than ferrosilicon, and there is significant potential for reduction in equipment size, capital costs, and productivity over electrolytic routes. In the MagSonic process, magnesia and carbon (graphite) react above 1,700°C to produce Mg vapor and CO gas. The equilibrium total pressure of the products is 1 atm at 1,764°C. In CSIRO’s experimental…
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