Pyro- and electrometallurgical processes


Pyro-, hydro-, solvo- and electrometallurgical unit processes are developed and integrated into zero- waste flow sheets for the production and recovery of base metals such as iron and steel, copper, zinc, nickel and lead.  Both experimental and modelling methodologies are developed and used.  The experimental work covers the full range from lab scale to industrial scale production and is supported with the use of advanced characterisation techniques and modelling approaches.

Flagship Topics:

  • Alternative energy forms (magnetic, microwave, plasma) for process intensification and enhanced metal recovery. Non-fossil fuel  based forms of energy are investigated to increase productivity and improve the metal recovery.  On-going projects include the use of high intensity magnetic fields to separate inclusions from metal and metal droplets from slags and the use of thermal plasmas for fuming of metals.
  • Hot stage slag engineering. Metallurgical slags have a major direct impact on metal production operations through metal quality, vessel integrity and metal recovery and can also present major challenges with respect to zero-waste metal processing or reduction .  With a profound knowledge of slag properties (phase relations, viscosity, solidification…) we develop novel processing schemes that concurrently meet metal production and recovery requirements as well as zero waste processing targets.
  • Solvometallurgy. Solvometallurgical processes are alternatives for hydrometallurgical processes and are characterised by an at least partial replacement of the aqueous phase by an organic phase. The use of organic solvents leads to more reactive lixiviant, less consumption of acids and less generation of waste water. Non-aqueous solvent extraction processes have other selectivities for separation of metals compared to solvent extraction processes with an aqueous phase.
  • Iron electrolysis. Experimental and modelling investigation of the fundamentals of direct electrochemical reduction to recover iron from iron rich metallurgical residues in aqueous solutions.
  • Quantitative characterisation and distribution analysis of base metals in primary raw materials and residues. Micro-chemical analysis of base metals in minerals and residues by, amongst others, field emission gun electron microprobe (FEG-EPMA).

The Team:

The leading members in this research line are:

Prof. Bart Blanpain (RL Leader) leads the HiTemp Group, has more than 20 years of experience in the field of pyrometallurgy including ferrous and non-ferrous metallurgy and slag processing. Bart Blanpain’s Group has an excellent track record in (mainly) strategic basic and applied science projects involving slag/residue valorisation, refractory wear, urban/landfill mining and novel/optimised metallurgical flow sheets (incl. projects with  Aperam,  ArcelorMittal Sidmar, Umicore, MetalloChimique, Campine, Group Machiels etc..

Contact Prof. Bart Blanpain

Prof. Koen Binnemans is a world-leading expert in the chemistry of REEs, the environmentally-friendly use of ILs in solvent extraction, critical metal recovery and solvometallurgy. Author of more than 200 papers on REEs (420 papers in total) with a h-index of 62 (69 according to Google Scholar) and over 16000 citations. General coordinator of EU FP7 MC-ITN EREAN, H2020 MSCA-ETNs REDMUD, DEMETER and SOCRATES, ERC Advanced Grant holder (SOLCRIMET) and Steering Committee Member of ERECON (DG Growth).

Prof. Jan Fransaer is a full professor of chemistry (Department of Materials Engineering). His research group has a tradition in experimental & computational electrochemistry. More than 100 peer reviewed publications and 11 patents in this field. He was involved in 7 EU projects (2 as coordinator) on electrodeposition. The group made significant contributions to the practical and theoretical understanding of the electrodeposition of particles together with metals, and was one of the first to study this process using non-aqueous electrolytes.

Prof. Philippe Muchez is head of the Ore Geology and Geofluids Research Group. He carried out post-doctoral research at the University of Liverpool and at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Laureate of the Royal Academies for Science and the Arts of Belgium and member of the Royal Academy for Overseas Sciences. Research  on the migration of fluids in sedimentary basins and ore-forming processes, i.e. Pb-Zn deposits in Europe, sediment-hosted ore deposits in the Copperbelt (Zambia, DRC) and Nb-Ta-Sn-W-Au deposits in Central Africa.

Dr. Muxing Guo, Research Expert at KU Leuven. His expertise domain is high temperature metallurgy, both for fundamental and industrial applications. Worked in the process metallurgical field for more than 30 years. He has been involved in numerous fundamental, strategic and applied science projects in the fields of steel cleanliness, pyro-plasma technology, slag valorisation, vessel inegrity etc.

Dr. Annelies Malfliet is a materials engineer experienced in the field of pyrometallurgy, and coordinator of the Centre for High Temperature Processes and Sustainable Materials Management. Her main domain of expertise is vessel integrity and microscopical characterisation techniques, including FEG EPMA-WDS.

Dr. Peter Tom Jones is a Senior Industrial Research Fund Research Manager. He is Valorisation Officer of several large-scale projects and networks at the level of KU Leuven, Flanders and the EU (MC-ITN EREAN, MSCA-ETNs REDMUD and DEMETER). He is also actively involved in the EIT Raw Materials. He chairs the EU-wide EURELCO Consortium. He takes care of the valorisation tasks within the research line and spearheads the contacts with major steel and non-ferrous industrial players such as Aperam, ArcelorMittal, Umicore, Metallo-Chimique, Recmix and Campine.

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