Chemical Durability of Thermal Insulating Materials in Hall-Héroult Electrolysis Cells
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionCeramics. 2019, 2 441-459. 10.3390/ceramics2030034
The most common thermal insulating materials used in the cathode lining in aluminum electrolysis cells are Moler (diatomaceous earth), calcium silicate, or vermiculite based materials. The thermal insulation layer is critical for the overall thermal stability of the cell and is vulnerable to volatile species, such as sodium vapor, that may penetrate through the carbon cathode and refractory layer. Here, we present an investigation of the chemical degradation of typical thermal insulating materials by exposure to sodium vapor in a laboratory test. Changes in microstructure and chemical and mineralogical composition of the exposed materials were characterized by electronic microscopy and powder X-ray diffraction. The materials possess different reaction patterns, ranging from deformation by creep to formation of a glassy layer reducing further sodium penetration. The results from the laboratory test were compared with chemical reactions with sodium predicted by computational thermodynamics and discussed with respect to relevant ternary phase diagrams.