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Production of Aluminum: Electrolysis of Molten Al2O3 C 2!"! # $ C 2!"!

Background Information:
Aluminum has become one of the most sought after metals in the world. Consider some of its uses. Pure aluminum (Al) is a silver-white, malleable, ductile metal. Aluminum is an excellent conductor of electricity. It is also an efficient conductor of heat and a good reflector of light and radiant heat. Aluminum is rimarily used to roduce istons, engine and body arts for cars, beverage cans, doors, siding and aluminum foil. It may also be used as sheet metal, aluminum late and foil, rods, bars and wire, aircraft com onents, windows and doorframes. Although aluminum is the most abundant metal on !arth, it was once found to be very difficult to extract from its various ores. "his made the scant ure aluminum which had been discovered (or refined at great ex ense) more valuable than gold. #ver time, however, the rice of aluminum has dro ed, due in large art to the invention of the $all-$%roult rocess. Aluminum can either be roduced from bauxite ore or from aluminum scra . &efinement of aluminum ore is so ex ensive that the secondary roduction industry commands much of the mar'et. "he ma(or ore of aluminum is bauxite. Aluminum metal is so versatile that the roduction of it is of great im ortance but a large amount of energy is re)uired to roduce it. Producers of aluminum have reduced the energy re)uirements by about *+, over the last two decades but are still trying to find ways to reduce the energy consum tion. Canada does not have any bauxite mines- however, the availability of abundant hydroelectric ower at a com etitive rice, a )ualified labour force and modern ublic infrastructure close to ma(or mar'ets led to the establishment of a world-class aluminum industry in Canada. Canada currently roduces rimary aluminum from smelters in .u%bec and /itimat, 0C. The Production of Aluminum from Electrolysis: !lectrolysis is a rocess used to release individual elements from an ionic com ound. It forces a non-s ontaneous chemical reaction to occur with the use of electrical energy. 1ome electrolysis reactions are carried out in a)ueous solution (i.e. in water), while some are carried out in the molten (melted) state. In cases where water doesn2t interfere in the electrolysis rocess, most salts are electroly3ed in a)ueous medium. "his is because it is far easier to dissolve a salt in water and electroly3e it, that to melt it and electroly3e it. 4any ionic com ounds melt at very high tem eratures (exceeding 5+++ oC) ma'ing electrolysis a very difficult rocess. In the case of aluminum oxide, dissolving in water rior to electroly3ing would result in hydrogen gas being roduced at the cathode instead of aluminum. "hus, aluminum oxide must first be melted. It is usually mixed with molten cryolite (6a7Al89 : m. . 5+5* oC), which reduces its melting tem erature significantly (from over *+++oC to ;<+oC). "he mixture is then sub(ected to electrolysis. Allowing the rocess to be carried out at a lower tem erature reduces some of the energy demands when aluminum is being roduced on a large scale (although a ma(ority of the energy is su lied to the electrolysis rocess). "he entire rocess of electroly3ing Al *#7 is referred to as the $all-$%roult rocess.

"he site listed below shows an animation of this rocess to roduce aluminum from Al*#7C

"he diagram below is a sim lified version of a ty ical electrolysis cell carrying out the $all-$%roult rocess.

%im&lified reactions:

Al3' ' 3 e! ( Al ) ) ) Cathode C*s+ ' 2 O2! ( CO2 ' , e! ) ) ) Anode 2 Al2O3 ' 3 C ( , Al ' 3 CO2 ) ) ) O-erall cell reaction
5. =raw a ower source on the diagram above and indicate the direction of electron flow using electrons and arrows. Are electrons moving through the wires, the solution, or both> *. Prior to electrolysis, the aluminum oxide is melted. ?hy can2t solid aluminum oxide be electroly3ed> 7. =raw aluminum (Al7@) and oxygen (#*-) ions in the solution on the diagram ( revious age). Ase arrows to indicate which electrode they move to during electrolysis. ?rite symbolic e)uations showing the reactions occurring at each electrode. B. In words, describe the rocesses that are occurring at the anode and the cathode.

<. "he net reaction occurring in the $all-$%roult rocess isC 2Al2O3 ' 3C !!. ,Al*l+ ' 3CO2*g+ a) 0ased on this reaction and the diagram of the cell ( ervious age), suggest why the anodes ( ositive electrodes) might need to be re laced if this reaction were roducing aluminum on a large-scale. b) In the diagram of the cell ( revious age), the container is made of steel. 1uggest the role of the steel in the electrolysis rocess. c) 1uggest whether oxidation or reduction is occurring at the anode. ?rite the anode reaction (sim lified e)uations) and show which rocess is occurring by using oxidation numbers. Is there a loss or gain of electrons> d) 1uggest whether oxidation or reduction is occurring at the cathode. ?rite the cathode reaction (sim lified e)uations) and show which rocess is occurring by using oxidation numbers. Is there a loss or gain of electrons> e) ?hat evidence would you have that a chemical reaction is ta'ing lace at these electrodes>

9. ?hen the electrolysis of Al*#7 is carried out in a)ueous solution, hydrogen gas is roduced at the cathode rather than aluminum. !x lain.

D. "he electrolysis of molten AlCl7 is similar to that of Al*#7 (exce t much sim ler since it can be electroly3ed without the use of another substance to lower its melting oint). =raw a diagram of an electrolytic cell containing molten AlCl 7. Include the source of current, ions resent in solution, direction of electron flow, and anode and cathode electrodes. =escribe in words the rocesses occurring at each electrode. Also write symbolic reactions for the anode and cathode.

"he industrial rocess 'nown as aluminum electrolysis was discovered in 5EE9 by Paul-Fouis "oussaint $%roult and Charles 4artin $all. "he rocess is based on the use of a owerful electric current to decom ose aluminum oxide (Al *#7). Aluminum, found in the form of bauxite ore, it is first converted into ure aluminum oxide by the 0ayer Process. "his is then electroly3ed in solution in molten cryolite - another aluminum com ound, releasing ure aluminum.