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Publication numberUS2768074 A
Publication typeGrant
Publication dateOct 23, 1956
Filing dateSep 24, 1949
Priority dateSep 24, 1949
Publication numberUS 2768074 A, US 2768074A, US-A-2768074, US2768074 A, US2768074A
InventorsStauffer Robert A
Original AssigneeNat Res Corp
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Method of producing metals by decomposition of halides
US 2768074 A
Abstract  available in
Images(1)
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Claims  available in
Description  (OCR text may contain errors)

Oct. 23, 1956 R STAUFFER 2,768,074

METHOD OF PRODUCING METALS BY DECOMPOSITION OF HALIDES Filed Sept. 24, 1949 Wan/{r 4. mur m zirconium, titanium, vanadium, chromium, and

. high degree of purity adapting them for uses sidered as embraced METHOD OFPRODUCING METALs BY. DECOMPOSITION F HALIDES Robert A. Stautfer, Newton Highlands, Mass., assignor to National Research Corporation, Cambridge, Mass, a

corporationofMassachusetts Application September 24, 1949, Serial No. 117,522

9 dams.- (CI. 75-10 the metals as conventionally produced are unsuited.

In the case of the higher melting metals, at least, this ad-,

vantage is attained without increase in productioncosts, in fact the production costs are generally less. The invention extends to substances, asboron and silicon, which are not, inthe strict sense, metals butwhich have many of the characteristics of metals and are regarded much in the same light.

by the term metal as used herein. The invention will be described with particular reference to zirconium and titanium metal production since it is considered especially significant as thus applied.

Early investigators produced zirconium by thermally reducing the oxide. So produced the metal possesses little.

due to the presutility because of brittleness, apparently ence therein of occluded gases, particularly oxygenand nitrogen. Later investigators were successful in produc-. ing the metal in ductile form, but their processes ,have never been made use of commercially because of the small yields they alford and because they are not adapted for continuous large scale operation. In one typical process, zirconium iodide is decomposed on a hot tungsten filament disposed within an evacuated vessel of heat resistant glass, the metal coating out on the filament. The apparatus mustv be cooled and dismantled periodically to recover the metal. 7

Recently, it has been proposed to produce ductile zi rconium by reduction of zirconium chloride with magnesium in an atmosphere of argon. magnesium chloride is produced as a by-product' and must be separated by sublimation at 1000 C.- The process is further disadvantageous in that the product metal has the form of a sponge and must either. be re-melted in vacuo and cast, or powdered and sintered in vacuo; At best, the product metal is considerably less ductile than the metal as prepared by the filament method, which In such process,

offers relatively little opportunity for contamination of the metal with gases causing embrittlement.

In accordance with the present invention, the zirconium metal may be produced in quantity in a desirable ingot form and need not be re-melted and cast or otherwise subsequently treated by the prime. producer.

The starting material in the caseof the process herein, as has been indicated, is a volatile compound of, the metal.

. sr a i em e Such pseudo metals areto be con-' Generally and preferably, a compound of the nation with a refrigerated condenser. The'negativepres-ig;

Un te tes, Pa en ,as applied in According to the invention, the starting compound in! utilized as one of the electrodes between which the arc is passed and the product metal is collected by coalescence on the surface of the ingot reaction products being caused to impinge on such sur: face. substantially constant by the controlled.withdrawalof the ingot at a rate conforming with the rate of deposition of the metal. Under optimum operating conditions, the are maintains the upper surface of the ingot in molten condition. This aids materially in the coalescing of the product metal.

The invention, in both its process and apparatus aspects, will be better understood by reference to the accompanying schematic drawing illustrating a system of apparatus suitable for its practice. The apparatus will be described 7 the production of metal from a metal halide.

In the drawing, the numeral 10 denotes an electrode, advantageously formed of carbon, disposed within a chamber 11, hereinafter referred to as the decomposition chamber, delineated by a ceramic lined metal tank 12. tight lid 14 through' which the upper The electrode, which having a pressure portion of the electrodeextends. should be suitably insulated, is connected above the lid 14 to an electric cable 15 extending to a direct current generator 16. I V

Tank ll is provided with a connection 17, extending to a suitable vacuum pumping system, not shown@ At its bottom the tank opensto a mold 18 having a jacketp'ortion 19 provided with connections 20 and 21 for the ingress and egress, respectively, of a suitable cooling agent, normally water. An ingot 22 of the metal to be produced is partially confined by the second electrode, being connected to generator 16 via cable 23. Roller 24 enables ingot without interference with the electrical connection. interposed between the mold 25 which provide a pressure tight seal. 1

In operation of the system, an are, indicated by the is maintained between the electrode 10 and the ingot 22, the latter being at lower; This are, as previously indicated, preferably" the upper surface of the ingot in molten con bent arrows in the drawing,

potential. maintains dition. If desired, the operating conditions may beso controlled that only the center face of the ingot is maintained molten as shown at 229. In such event, the solid marginal areas or edges serve to confine the molten pool of metal.

The halide to be decomposed is introduced into the decomposition chamber Him the vapor state via a connection 26 serving a feeding ring or manifold 27 which operates to direct the halide downwardly through the are. Below the element 27 and'only very slightly above the surface of the ingot 22, is which functions to collect the metal during: passage of the halide through the are; Both manifo1ds27 and28 means, as a mechanical backing pump working in combithe' metal from th'eother component In the preferred form of the invention, the ingot in the ingot-forming zonefis contactedby' the arc, the;

With this arrangement, arc length may be kept r'nold 18 and serves as a downward movement of the 13 andthe ingot are gaskets portion ofthe upper sura second ring or manifold 28' the halogen dissociated from are preferably coated with a' ceramic, similar to the lining on tank 12, topreventac cidental arcing to either ofmanifolds 27 or 28. 'Thecol- Y lectedhalogen is withdrawn from, the system'by meansof line 29 which is connected to suitable evacuatiom sure in the collection ring 28 serves to promote impingement of the reaction products on the surface of the ingot receiving the arc. Connection 17, by means of which the system is initially evacuated, may be used in. the withdrawal of any of the gaseous reaction products which are not collected by the ring 28. This ring may be dispensed with entirely where the velocity of the entering vapors of itself assures impingement of the reaction products on the surface of the ingot.

Where superheating of the vaporized metal compound prior to its discharge into the decomposition zone is desired, the superheating may be accomplished by positioning ring element 27 somewhat closer to the electrode 1%.

'As the arc-induced dissociation reaction proceeds, arc length decreases from the deposition of metal on the ingot. Advantageously, the resulting decrease in E. M. F. is utilized to actuate a pair of rollers 3i. which move the ingot downwardly. As free ingot length increases sections or pigs of any desired length may be automatically produced as by a travelling saw, not shown.

Rotation of the rollers 31 can be so controlled as to provide a constant arc length, as is desirable, by the means indicated at the right hand side of the drawing, for example. Such means comprises a D. C. motor 32, operatively connected to the rollers 31 through speed reducing gears 33, and a constant voltage D. C. power supply 34, the circuit including the motor and power supply being in parallel with relation to the electrode circuit. The polarities of power supply 34 and generator 16 being opposite, as indicated, when the voltage of the power supply in the motor circuit is adjusted to equal the voltage between the electrode and ingot at the preferred arc length, no current flows in the motor circuit initially. However, when the arc length decreases from deposition of the metal on the ingot, the voltage between the electrode and ingot becomes less than the constant voltage supplied in the motor circuit. Under this circumstance, a net voltage is supplied across the motor, energizing the same and causing rotation of rollers 31.

It will, of course, be appreciated that the conditions under which the disclosed system is operated depend on the particular metal being produced and on the characteristics of the starting compound.

In producing zirconium metal from zirconium halides, the optimum total pressure is governed by the identity of the halide. In general, are dissociation of zirconium halides depends upon the total pressure in the system. As pressure decreases, the percent dissociation increases. It has been found that when the tetraiodide is decomposed, the total pressure may be as high as 100 mm. Hg absolute. On the other hand, when the tetrabromide or tetrachloride is decomposed, the total pressure should be less than 10 mm. Hg absolute, preferably less than 1 mm. Hg absolute in the case of the tetrachloride. With the corresponding titanium compounds, total pressures may be generally somewhat higher. As used herein, the expression total pressure refers to the sum of the pressures of the introduced metal compound (e. g., the halide) and of the reaction product (e. g., the halogen). Such pressures does not include air pressure within the decomposition zone since substantially all of the air is evacuated from the chamber prior to the decomposition reaction in order to prevent contamination of the product metal.

Arc temperature varies with the compound being, de-v Positive direction of the feed vapor through 4 up, an ingot of previously prepared metal is placed in the mold and the system evacuated to a pressure of from 1O to l0-- millimeters of mercury, for example. Thereafter, the feed vapor is introduced until the desired operating pressure is reached at which point the arc is struck. It is generally advantageous to preheat the feed vapor to a temperature between 350800 C.

Zirconium tetrachloride for use in the practice of the invention may be prepared in any suitable way. Perhaps the most suitable process is that developed by the United States Bureau of Mines. In such process, zircon is reduced with carbon in an electric furnace,-the amount of carbon added being adjusted to promote the following reaction:

ZrSiO4+4C Z rC+SiO+3CO The zirconium carbide thus prepared is treated with chlorine at an elevated temperature, the chlorine reacting with the carbide to form the tetrachloride which being volatile at the reaction temperature vaporizes out of the reaction zone. Iron chloride and other chloride contaminants are separated from the zirconium tetrachloride product by resublimation of the product in an atmosphere of hydrogen.

Using the invention herein as a stage of an overall process for the production of zirconium metal from zircon, it is advantageous to cycle the chlorine resulting on the dissociation of the zirconium tetrachloride to the unit wherein the carbide is reacted with chlorine.

As has been indicated, the particular value of the invention with respect to zirconium stems from the fact that the metal is produced in ductile form in commercially significant quantities. The invention is of equivalent value with respect to titanium; this metal also being subject to embrittlement by oxygen and nitrogen which invariably become occluded in the metal as produced by procedures not providing for exclusion of these gases. Of the existing methods for producing ductile titanium, the filament method referred to in the forepart hereof, with its attendant disadvantages, has been most used.

Various changes may be made in the apparatus as disclosed by the drawing without departing from the scope of the invention. Thus, in some cases it may be advantageous to charge the feed vapor through a hollow electrode or to maintain the arc length constant by means other than those shown, means causing movement of the negative electrode, for example. In other cases, it may be advantageous to bubble the vapor from which the metal is directly derived through the molten metal on the surface of the ingot by means of a suitably resistant tube extending into the molten metal.

It is believed obvious that alloys of substantially any desired composition may be prepared in accordance with the invention by using mixed feed vapors.

This application is a continuation-in-part of my application Serial Number 44,253, filed August 14, 1948, now abandoned.

I claim:

1. The method of producing a metal from the class consisting of titanium and zirconium by decomposing a compound thereof rom the class consisting of the tetrachlorides, tetraiodides and tetrabromides of titanium and zirconium, which comprises providing a solid body of said metal adjacent an electrode in a decomposition zone, removing substantially all of the air from said zone, maintaining an arc between said electrode and an upper surface of said'metal body to maintain a molten pool of' said metal on the upper surface of said body, vaporizing said metal compound, introducing a stream of said vaporized compound into said decomposition zone and directing said stream of vaporized metal compound through said are and against the surface of said metal pool to effect the decomposition of said compound to the metal with coalescing of said dissociated metal on said pool, and

r removing the gaseous products of decomposition from said decomposition zone at a sufl'lcient rate to maintain the total pressure of the introduced metal compound and of the reaction products in said decomposition zone below atmospheric pressure.

2. A method according to claim 1 wherein said com pound is a tetraiodide of one of the metals zirconium and titanium and said pressure is maintained below about 100 mm. Hg. absolute.

3. A method according to claim 1 wherein said compound is a tetrabromide of one of the metals zirconium and titanium and said pressure is maintain below 10 mm. Hg absolute.

4. A method according to claim 1 wherein said compound is a tetrachloride of one of the metals zirconium and titanium and said pressure is maintained below 1 mm. Hg absolute.

5. The method of producing a high-melting-point metal selected from the group consisting of titanium, zirconium, vanadium, chromium, and hafnium, in a high state of purity, said method comprising the steps of vaporizing a halide of said metal which is volatilizable without decomposition and decomposable at a temperature less than the volatilization temperature of said metal, providing an air-free zone between a pair of electrodes, one of said electrodes comprising a body of said metal, maintaining a portion of the upper surface of said body of metal molten by means of an are between said electrodes, directing said vaporized metal halide through said are and against the molten upper surface of said metal body to decompose said metal halide to said metal and to coalesce said produced metal on said molten surface, and separately removing from said zone said produced metal and the gaseous products of decomposition, said gaseous decomposition products being removed from said decomposition zone at a sufiicient rate to maintain the total pressure of the introduced halide and the reaction products in the decomposition zone below atmospheric pressure.

6. The method of claim 5 wherein said metal body is withdrawn from said zone at a rate conforming substantially with the rate of deposition of metal thereon so as to maintain said arc length substantially constant.

7. The method of claim 5 wherein the sides of said metal body are cooled so as to confine a pool of molten metal on the upper surface of said metal body.

8. In the process wherein titanium is produced by the thermal dissociation of a halide selected from the group consisting of a chloride, an iodide and a bromide of titanium, the improvement, which comprises: melting titanium to form a molten pool of titanium; heating said molten pool by means of an electric are that plays on the surface of said molten pool; and flowing said halide to form a stream that flows through said electric arc and then into contact with said surface of said molten pool, so that said halide dissociates thermally to yield particles of titanium which are collected by said molten pool.

9. In the process wherein a metal selected from the group consisting of titanium and zirconium is produced by the thermal dissociation of a halide selected from the group consisting of a chloride, an iodide and a bromide of said metal, the improvement, which comprises: melting said metal to form a molten pool of said metal; heating said molten pool by means of an electric are that plays on the surface of said molten pool; and flowing said halide to form a stream that flows through said electric arc and then into contact with said surface of said molten pool, so that said halide dissociates thermally to yield particles of said metal which are collected by said molten pool.

References Cited in the file of this patent UNITED STATES PATENTS 866,385 Von Pirani Sept. 17, 1907 872,351 King Dec. 13, 1907 900,207 Reid Oct. 6, 1908 1,046,043 Weintraug Dec. 3, 1912 1,249,151 McKee Dec. 14, 1917 1,671,213 Van Arkel et al May 29, 1928 1,889,907 Terry Dec. 6, 1932 2,191,479 Hopkins Feb. 27, 1940 2,205,854 Kroll June 25, 1940 2,207,746 Maier July 16, 1940 2,240,231 Stalhane Apr. 29, 1941 2,369,233 Hopkins Feb. 13, 1945 2,445,670 Hopkins July 20, 1948 2,541,764 Herres et a1 Feb. 13, 1951 OTHER REFERENCES Metal Industry, Oct. 18, 1946, article by Kroll et al., pages 319-322, inclusive. Page 319 relied upon.

Browne: Continuous Casting Alloys; Steel; Jan. 19, 1948 (pp. 74-76, 78).

Clauser: Alloys Made by Electric Ingot Process Have Improved Properties; Materials and Methods; January, 1948 (pp. 57-62).

Herres et al.: Arc Melting Refractory Metals; Steel; May 2, 1949 (pp. 8286,

Parke et al.: The Melting of Molybdenum in the Vacuum Arc; Metals Technology; September 1946; Technical Publication No. 2052, v. 13, No. 6 (12 pp.)

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Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US2879314 *Mar 26, 1956Mar 24, 1959Du PontFurnace seal
US2945797 *May 9, 1957Jul 19, 1960Saint GobainManufacture of metals of high purity
US2955966 *Jun 11, 1958Oct 11, 1960Int Standard Electric CorpManufacture of semiconductor material
US2974033 *Jun 7, 1954Mar 7, 1961Titanium Metals CorpMelting titanium metal
US2985519 *Jun 2, 1958May 23, 1961Du PontProduction of silicon
US2989378 *Oct 7, 1957Jun 20, 1961Int Standard Electric CorpProducing silicon of high purity
US2993762 *Oct 7, 1957Jul 25, 1961Int Standard Electric CorpMethods of producing silicon of high purity
US2993763 *Nov 14, 1957Jul 25, 1961Plessey Co LtdManufacturing process for the preparation of flakes of sintered silicon
US2999737 *Apr 16, 1959Sep 12, 1961Siemens And Halske Ag Berlin AProduction of highly pure single crystal semiconductor rods
US3030189 *May 19, 1958Apr 17, 1962Siemens AgMethods of producing substances of highest purity, particularly electric semiconductors
US3055741 *Dec 22, 1960Sep 25, 1962Sylvania Electric ProdMethod for producing silicon
US3058820 *Jul 25, 1958Oct 16, 1962Whitehurst Bert WMethod of producing titanium metal
US3069241 *Feb 26, 1959Dec 18, 1962Int Standard Electric CorpManufacture of high purity silicon
US3078150 *May 1, 1959Feb 19, 1963Int Standard Electric CorpProduction of semi-conductor materials
US3090673 *May 1, 1959May 21, 1963Int Standard Electric CorpMethod and material for heat treating fusible material
US3093456 *Sep 2, 1958Jun 11, 1963Texas Instruments IncMethod for recovery and reuse of quartz containers
US3116144 *Apr 23, 1956Dec 31, 1963Chilean Nitrate Sales CorpProcess for the production of iodide chromium
US3119778 *Jan 20, 1959Jan 28, 1964Clevite CorpMethod and apparatus for crystal growth
US3123464 *Dec 15, 1954Mar 3, 1964 Method of producing titanium
US3126248 *Nov 25, 1958Mar 24, 1964 Process for producing purified
US3130013 *May 28, 1957Apr 21, 1964Int Standard Electric CorpMethods of producing silicon of high purity
US3172734 *Jan 10, 1958Mar 9, 1965International Standard Electric Corporationwarren
US3533777 *Nov 2, 1966Oct 13, 1970Commw Scient Ind Res OrgProduction of metals from their halides
US3825415 *Jul 21, 1972Jul 23, 1974Electricity CouncilMethod and apparatus for the production of liquid titanium from the reaction of vaporized titanium tetrachloride and a reducing metal
US3938988 *Aug 7, 1973Feb 17, 1976Othmer Donald FMethod for producing aluminum metal from its salts
WO2013152805A1Apr 13, 2012Oct 17, 2013European Space AgencyMethod and system for production and additive manufacturing of metals and alloys
Classifications
U.S. Classification75/10.29, 373/105, 204/164, 164/495
International ClassificationC22B34/12, C22B34/14, C22B34/00
Cooperative ClassificationC22B34/129, C22B34/14
European ClassificationC22B34/12J, C22B34/14