The SOLVOMET Centre offers a number of services to its industrial partners and RTD Centres. These are grouped according to three categories. Combined they cover targeted TRL levels from 3-4 to 5-6.
1. Recovery of metals from low-grade ores, solid industrial process residues and urban waste
Different solvometallurgical leaching methods can be applied to recover metals from low-grade ores (e.g. nickel laterites), mine tailings, solid industrial waste residues (e.g. bauxite residue, phosphogypsum, metallurgical slag, iron-rich sludges from the steel and zinc industry) and urban waste (e.g. WEEE, lamp phosphor waste, rare-earth magnets, NiMH batteries, Co-containing Li-ion batteries). The main leaching methods are:
- Direct solid leaching in which the organic lixiviant is brought into direct contact with the solid;
- Non-aqueous slurry solvent leaching, in which the solid is cured first with a concentrated acid before it is brought into contact with an organic extraction phase. Leaching can be carried out at a laboratory scale in batch reactors (up to five litres), mortar grinder or in columns. The dissolved metals can be recovered from the loaded organic phase by non-aqueous ion exchange, solvent extraction or precipitation.
2. Removal of metals from liquid organic process streams
After solvent leaching, metal ions can be recovered from the pregnant organic leach solutions by non-aqueous ion exchange, non-aqueous solvent extraction or precipitation. Chelating resins can be used to scavenge valuable metals (e.g. PGMs or Co) that have been used as catalysts in organic reactions.
3. Solvent extraction processes
Solvent extraction processes can be studied from a chemical (molecular) point of view: mechanistic studies and kinetic studies, as well as long-term stability studies of extractants and diluents. Solvent extraction can be carried out in small mixer-settler batteries, batch extractors or in series of separatory funnels.