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Issue 13, 2008
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Computer-aided control of electrolysis of solid Nb2O5 in molten CaCl2

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Low energy production of Nb powders via computer-aided control (CAC) of two-electrode electrolysis of porous Nb2O5 pellets (ca. 1.0 g) has been successfully demonstrated in molten CaCl2 at 1123 K. It was observed that potentiostatic electrolysis of the oxide in a three-electrode cell led to a cell voltage, i.e. the potential difference between the working (cathode) and counter (anode) electrodes, that decreased to a low and stable value within 1–2 h of the potential application until the end of the electrolysis (up to 12 h in this work). The cell voltage varied closely according to the current change. The stabilised cell voltage was below 2.5 V when the cathode potential was more positive than that for the reduction of Ca2+, leading to much lower energy consumption than that of constant voltage (>3.0 V) two-electrode electrolysis, as previously reported. Using a computer to program the variation of the cell voltage of two-electrode electrolysis according to that observed in the potentiostatic three-electrode electrolysis (0.05 V vs. Ca/Ca2+), a Nb powder with ca. 3900 ppm oxygen was produced in 12 h, with the energy consumption being 37.4% less than that of constant voltage two-electrode electrolysis at 3.0 V. Transmission electron microscopy revealed thin oxide layers (4–6 nm) on individual nodular particles (1–5 µm) of the obtained Nb powder. The oxide layer was likely formed in post-electrolysis processing operations, including washing in water, and contributed largely to the oxygen content in the obtained Nb powder.

Graphical abstract: Computer-aided control of electrolysis of solid Nb2O5 in molten CaCl2

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Publication details

The article was received on 17 des. 2007, accepted on 21 jan. 2008 and first published on 12 feb. 2008

Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/B719369F
Citation: Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 2008,10, 1809-1818
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    Computer-aided control of electrolysis of solid Nb2O5 in molten CaCl2

    T. Wu, W. Xiao, X. Jin, C. Liu, D. Wang and G. Z. Chen, Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 2008, 10, 1809
    DOI: 10.1039/B719369F

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