Alumina is used for the production of aluminium metal, through the Hall–Héroult electrochemical smelting process It is also used in applications such as industrial and medical ceramics, sandpapers, pigments, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals The Bayer Process is the most economic means of obtaining alumina from bauxite
Before it can become aluminum, however, bauxite destined for use as aluminum must first be processed into alumina In 2015, the US Geological Survey estimated that over 95% of bauxite was converted to alumina, with the remainder going toward a variety of products such as abrasives, chemicals, proppants, and more
With the two processes combined, bauxite ore can be processed into alumina, which is then converted into aluminum Today, the Bayer process is virtually unchanged and is used to produce nearly all of the world’s alumina supply, as an intermediate step in aluminum production
ALUMINA PRODUCTION Bauxite is crushed, dried and ground in special mills where it is mixed with a small amount of water This process produces a thick paste that is collected in special containers and heated with steam to remove most of the silicon present in bauxites The ore is loaded into autoclaves and treated with lime–caustic soda
The first commercial extraction of alumina (Al 2 O 3) from bauxite has been attributed to Henri Sainte-Claire Deville in about 1854 Soon after this, in 1888, Karl Joseph Bayer described what is now known as the Bayer Process, which led to a dramatic reduction in the cost of aluminum metal
The Bayer process is the principal industrial means of refining bauxite to produce alumina and was developed by Carl Josef Bayer Bauxite, the most important ore of aluminium, contains only 30–60% aluminium oxide, the rest being a mixture of silica, various iron oxides, and titanium dioxide The aluminium oxide must be purified before it can be refined to aluminium metal
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