SOLVOMET ISC History
SOLVOMET ISC was established in 2017 by Prof. Koen Binnemans (SOLVOMET Group Leader) and Dr. Peter Tom Jones (Industrial Research Fund Research Manager for SOLVOMET). Initially, SOLVOMET ISC strongly focused on the development of solvometallurgical processes (as an emerging domain next to more traditional hydrometallurgy). Hence, the name SOLVOMET was chosen for the Centre.
However, since around 2019, as a result of intensive interactions with many leading industrial experts, SOLVOMET ISC’s research focus slowly shifted towards “circular hydrometallurgy”. The reason for this change is summarised by Prof. Koen Binnemans:
“Genuine breakthroughs in hydrometallurgy will not come from the use of neoteric solvents like ionic liquids or deep-eutectic solvents, but rather from a deep understanding of hydro-processes at a molecular level. Hydrometallurgy needs to evolve to low-energy-input circular hydrometallurgy.”
However, given the long history of the name of the SOLVOMET Group/ISC, we have opted to maintain the name SOLVOMET for our activities. Solving problems in metallurgy, is what we do!
SOLVOMET ISC Mission
“To support mining, metallurgical & recycling companies in the development of more sustainable (circular, low-energy input) hydrometallurgical processes, which are tested using state-of-the-art lab & mini-pilot scale experimental facilities.”
SOLVOMET ISC Vision
“SOLVOMET ISC’s vision is that metallurgical chemistry expertise allows to develop more efficient, eco-friendly hydrometallurgical and solvometallurgical processes to provide the critical metals that are needed for the transition to a climate-neutral society.”
SOLVOMET ISC & Circular Hydrometallurgy
Circular hydrometallurgy is the area of hydrometallurgy that focuses on the design of energy-efficient flowsheets or unit processes that consume a minimal amount of reagents and produce virtually no waste. It entails a different way of thinking about how hydrometallurgy is practiced, both for primary mining and recycling processes. Circularity refers to the regeneration and reuse of all the reagents in a process. This not only includes acids or bases used for leaching or pH control, but also any reducing agents, oxidising agents and other auxiliary reagents. In addition to minimising the consumption of chemical reagents, the consumption of water and energy must be reduced to an absolute minimum. Deeply influenced by the concepts circular economy, eco-efficiency, green chemistry and green engineering, circular hydrometallurgy embraces the philosophy of “doing more with less”, providing a compass for future R&D in the field of hydrometallurgy.
As a guiding framework of how circular hydrometallurgical flowsheets can be designed, a cohesive set of principles has been developed by the SOLVOMET Group: i.e., the Twelve Principles of Circular Hydrometallurgy. These principles are design rules to help metallurgical engineers in achieving the goal of circularity in hydrometallurgy. The elaboration of these Twelve Principles will be published in a soon to be available (SOLVOMET) position paper by Binnemans and Jones.
SOLVOMET ISC’s key metals of interest
SOLVOMET ISC has a track record in the extraction, recovery, recycling or refining of a plethora of different metals, including both essential energy-transition metals (as used in Li-ion batteries, permanent magnets for wind turbines or electric motors), several other critical metals (e.g. PGMs, Nb/Ta…), while not forgetting the key base metals such as Cu, Pb and Zn.