Ionometallurgy: Processing of Metals using Ionic Liquids
The technological world is heavily reliant upon a wide range of metals, many of which are produced in high temperature, energy intensive processes (pyrometallurgy or molten salt electrometallurgy). The current energy efficient alternatives (hydrometallurgy) simply transfer the problem by using aggressive or toxic reagents in aqueous solution. In the environment, metals are becoming rarer and some are predicted soon to become “extinct”. Metal recycling and urban mining are therefore increasingly important. Ionometallurgy, metal processing in ambient temperature ionic fluids, offers the prospect of purifying metals from a range of sources at ambient condition whilst minimising emission of hazardous reagents to the environment. Concentrating metals in solution optimises energy efficiency and promises unprecedented selectivity in metal purification. Ionometallurgy aims to develop socially responsible and efficient methods of obtaining metals from complex mixtures such as ores, electronic waste and spent nuclear fuels.