Title:
EXTRACTION OF METALS
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The present invention provides a substantially inert environment within a cathode chamber that is capable of generating a metallic element M from a metal ion Mz+.



Inventors:
Martoyan, Gagik (Yerevan, AM)
Application Number:
13/663418
Publication Date:
09/12/2013
Filing Date:
10/29/2012
Assignee:
MARTOYAN GAGIK
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
204/242, 204/252, 204/253, 205/560, 204/232
International Classes:
C25C7/00; C25C5/02
View Patent Images:



Foreign References:
WO2004005586A12004-01-15
GB774896A1957-05-15
Primary Examiner:
WILKINS III, HARRY D
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Milord A. Keshishian (LOS ANGELES, CA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A method for production of a metal, comprising: providing a substantially inert environment within which a metallic element M is generated from a metal ion Mz+.

2. The method for production of a metal as set forth in claim 1, wherein: the inert environment is a result of skin effect on a conductive medium.

3. The method for production of a metal as set forth in claim 2, wherein: an applied current generating the skin effect on the conductive medium propels the metallic element M onto a surface of the conductive medium.

4. The method for production of a metal as set forth in claim 3, wherein: metallic element M is propelled at a rate that is faster than a diffusion rate and a reaction rate of the metallic element M with the conductive medium.

5. The method for production of a metal as set forth in claim 1, wherein: metal ions Mz+ are generated from an electrolyte solution.

6. The method for production of a metal as set forth in claim 5, wherein: the electrolyte solution contains a metal component of the metal.

7. The method for production of a metal as set forth in claim 6, wherein: the electrolyte solution is an aqueous based electrolyte solution.

8. The method for production of a metal as set forth in claim 7, wherein: the aqueous based electrolyte solution is one of an inorganic metal salt solution and an organic metal salt solution.

9. The method for production of a metal as set forth in claim 8, wherein: the metal component is an active metal that has a more negative electrochemical potential than a potential of hydrogen evolution during electrolysis.

10. The method for production of a metal as set forth in claim 9, wherein: the active metal is a cation component of one of the inorganic metal salt solution and the organic metal salt solution.

11. The method for production of a metal as set forth in claim 1, wherein: the metallic element M is an active metal.

12. The method for production of a metal as set forth in claim 1, wherein: the metal ions Mz+ are generated from an electrolyte solution.

13. The method for production of a metal as set forth in claim 1, wherein: the inert environment constitutes a cathode chamber.

14. The method for production of a metal as set forth in claim 1, wherein: the inert environment constitutes a cathode chamber comprised of a conductive medium.

15. The method for production of a metal as set forth in claim 1, wherein: the inert environment constitutes a cathode chamber comprised of a conductive liquid.

16. The method for production of a metal as set forth in claim 1, wherein: the inert environment constitutes a cathode chamber, with the cathode chamber comprised of: a conductive liquid metal; and a cathode electrode.

17. The method for production of a metal as set forth in claim 16, wherein: an applying current to the cathode electrode results in:
Mz++ze=M where Mz+ is the metal ion, z is metal valence, and e is the electron charge of the cathode electrode.

18. A metal extractor, comprising: a substantially inert environment that receives a metal ion Mz+, generating a metallic element M.

19. The metal extractor as set forth in claim 18, wherein: the inert environment constitutes a cathode chamber.

20. The metal extractor as set forth in claim 18, wherein: the inert environment constitutes a cathode chamber comprised of a conductive medium.

21. The metal extractor as set forth in claim 18, wherein: the inert environment constitutes a cathode chamber comprised of a conductive liquid.

22. The metal extractor as set forth in claim 18, wherein: the inert environment constitutes a cathode chamber, with the cathode chamber comprised of: a conductive liquid metal; and a cathode electrode.

23. The metal extractor as set forth in claim 22, wherein: an applying current to the cathode electrode results in:
Mz++ze=M where Mz+ is the metal ion, z is metal valence, and e is the electron charge of the cathode electrode.

24. A device, comprising: an ion exchange processor with an induced, substantially inert environment within which is received a metal ion Mz+, generating a metallic element M as follows:
Mz++ze=M where z is metal valence, and e is the electron charge.

25. The device as set forth in claim 24, wherein: the inert environment is a result of skin effect on a conductive medium.

26. The device as set forth in claim 25, wherein: an applied current generates the skin effect on the conductive medium propels the metallic element M onto a surface of the conductive medium.

27. The device as set forth in claim 26, wherein: metallic element is propelled at a rate that is faster than a diffusion rate and a reaction rate of the metallic element M with the conductive medium.

28. The device as set forth in claim 24, wherein: metal ions Mz+ are generated from an electrolyte solution.

29. The device as set forth in claim 24, wherein: the electrolyte solution contains a metal component of the metal that has a more negative electrochemical potential than a potential of hydrogen evolution during electrolysis.

30. A method for production of a metal, comprising: providing a substantially inert environment within which a metallic element M is generated from a metal ion Mz+.

31. The method for production of a metal as set forth in claim 30, wherein: the inert environment is a result of a conductive, but chemically neutral solution that circulates within a cathode chamber, which is neutral in relation to the metal ion Mz+ and the metallic element M.

32. The method for production of a metal as set forth in claim 31, wherein: cathode chamber is defined by a cathode electrode at a first side that has an expanse that is substantially equal to that of a cathode ion exchange membrane at a second side, with the conductive chemically neutral solution circulating in between through the cathode chamber.

33. The method for production of a metal as set forth in claim 32, wherein: metal ion Mz+ pass through the cathode ion exchange membrane, the circulating conductive chemically neutral solution, and are deposited onto the cathode electrode as metallic element M, where they are extracted from the cathode chamber by the conductive chemically neutral solution.

34. The method for production of a metal as set forth in claim 32, wherein: span between the cathode electrode and the cathode ion exchange membrane is approximately less than about 1.5 mm.

35. The method for production of a metal as set forth in claim 31, wherein: the circulating conductive chemically neutral solution is comprised of solvents saturated with metal-salts.

36. A metal extraction method for production of a metal, comprising: providing an aqueous electrolyte solution containing a chloride of the metal; processing the aqueous electrolyte solution containing the chloride of the metal, and generating metal ions Mz+; deionizing the metal ion Mz+ into a metallic element M, storing the metallic element M in a substantially inert environment; processing the metallic element M into a powdered metal.

37. The metal extraction method for production of a metal as set forth in claim 36, wherein: the extracted metal is in a powder form.

38. A metal extractor, comprising: an electro-dialysis module that uses an aqueous electrolyte solution containing a metal component generates metal ions Mz+ that pass through a cation ion exchange membrane and into a substantially inert environment that constitutes a cathode chamber; the metal ions Mz+ are electro-deposited as metallic elements M as follows:
ze+Mz+=M where z is an integer representing metal valance and e is electron charge of a cathode electrode, with the electron charge resulting from an application of current to the cathode electrode.

39. The metal extractor as set forth in claim 39, wherein: the metal component of the aqueous electrolyte solution is a chloride of the metal.

40. The metal extractor as set forth in claim 39, wherein: the aqueous electrolyte solution containing the metal component is stored in a reservoir.

41. The metal extractor as set forth in claim 39, wherein: the electro-dialysis module is comprised of three chambers and further includes an anode electrode with both the cathode and anode electrodes coupled with electric power source.

42. The metal extractor as set forth in claim 39, wherein: the metal ions Mz+ are propelled to a surface of the cathode conductive liquid as a result of application of current to the cathode, and are removed from the cathode via removal circuit-loop that uses a removal medium that does not react with the metal, and further processed and extracted as a metallic element M.

43. The metal extractor as set forth in claim 43, wherein: the conductive liquid of the cathode chamber is a liquid metal comprised of material that enable generation of skin effect at a surface thereof due to application of current.

44. The metal extractor as set forth in claim 44, wherein: the cation exchange membrane includes a binding surface facing the collecting chamber for unidirectional movement of the metal ions Mz+ from the first chamber and into the collecting chamber, and separation of the conductive liquid in the cathode chamber form the first chamber.

45. A metal extractor, comprising: a substantially inert environment within which a metallic element M is generated from a metal ion Mz+; the inert environment is a result of a conductive, but chemically neutral solution that circulates within a cathode chamber, which is neutral in relation to the metal ion Mz+ and the metallic element M.

46. The metal extractor as set forth in claim 46, wherein: a conductive liquid of the cathode chamber is a non-aqueous electrolyte solution containing methanol with metallic salt additives that dissolve in the methanol.

47. A metal extractor, comprising: an ion exchange processor separated into one or more cation ion exchange processing cells and an anion ion exchange processing unit; with the one or more cation ion exchange processing cells having a cathode chamber with a substantially inert environment within which a metallic element M is generated from a metal ion Mz+; the inert environment is a result of a conductive, but chemically neutral solution that circulates within a cathode chamber, which is neutral in relation to the metal ion Mz+ and the metallic element M.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims the benefit of priority of the co-pending U.S. Utility Provisional Patent Application 61/552,269, filed Oct. 27, 2011, the entire disclosure of which is expressly incorporated by reference herein. Where a definition or use of a term in an incorporated reference is inconsistent or contrary to the definition of that term provided herein, the definition of that term provided herein applies and the definition of that term in the incorporated reference does not apply.

Where a definition or use of a term in the incorporated Provisional Patent Application 61/552,269, filed Oct. 27, 2011 is inconsistent or contrary to the definition of that term provided herein, the definition of that term provided herein applies and the definition of that term in the incorporated Provisional Patent Application No. 61/552,269, filed Oct. 27, 2011 does not apply.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention generally relates to production and purification of metals. In particular, this invention relates to production (or extraction) of reactive (or active) metals from substantially water-based medium, a non-limiting example of which may include a substantially water-based electrolyte liquid solution comprised of metal-salts.

2. Description of Related Art

Extractions of certain types of metals from electrolyte water solutions containing metal-salts are well known and have been in use for a number of years. This is particularly true of lesser active metals that have a more positive electrochemical potential than the potential of hydrogen evolution as a result of splitting of water (H2O) in an aqueous based electrolyte solution during electrolysis.

Non-limiting, non-exhaustive list of exemplary metals with a more positive electrochemical potential than the potential of hydrogen evolution due to water splitting during electrolysis process include Cu, Fe, Ni, Zn, Pb, Sn, Ag, etc. Using electrolysis to extract these types of metals from the aqueous salt solutions, the reduction of metal cations takes place on the cathode electrode, and the extracted metal is deposited on the cathode surface in the form of film or powder. The cathode reaction for the mentioned metals using electrolysis of metal-salt water solution (i.e., the electrolyte) is as follows:


Mz++ze=M

Where Mz+ denotes hydrated metal ion, z is metal valence, e is the electron charge, and M is the metal.

Regrettably however, the use of the above conventional electrolysis process (with water as the medium or the electrolyte solution—an aqueous based electrolyte) is not appropriate if the metal being produced (extracted) is an active metal. That is, active metals (which have a more negative electrochemical potential than the potential of hydrogen evolution during electrolysis) tend to react with water-based electrolyte solution and hence, the conventional aqueous-based electrolysis processes generate hydrogen (H2) and a hydroxide (OH) of the active metal rather than the pure metal in accordance to the following chemical reaction:


Mz++z(OH)=Me(OH)z

Accordingly, hydrogen is produced on the cathode instead of the deposits of the metal M. That is, during conventional electrolysis, water splits and hydrogen (H2) and hydroxide (OH) of the active metals are generated instead of the reduction of active metal ions Mz+ into pure active metals M deposited as film or powder on the cathode surface. Non-limiting, non-exhaustive list of exemplary active metals are alkaline metals (e.g., Li, Na, K, Rb, Cs, etc.), alkaline-earth metals (e.g., Mg, Ca, Ba, etc.), and some other metals such as Al, Mo, Ti, W, and etc. As a non-limiting specific example, for the active metal magnesium Mg (which has an electrochemical potential that is more negative than hydrogen evolution potential during a conventional electrolysis process) hydrogen and magnesium hydroxide are generated instead of pure magnesium metal when using conventional aqueous-based electrolysis processes:


Mg+2H2O═H2+Mg(OH)2

In general, most conventional methods to extract and produce pure forms of active metals using electrolysis use non-aqueous electrolytes (such as organic solutions) as the medium for the electrolysis process. That is, for active metals with greater negative electrochemical potential than the potential of hydrogen evolution in an aqueous based electrolyte, a non-aqueous electrolyte such as organic solutions may be used in the electrolysis process to extract and produce metals. However, electrolysis processes that use non-aqueous electrolytes (e.g., organic solutions) are very inefficient in extracting and generating pure active metals.

Other non-aqueous electrolysis methods (methods that do not contain water in the electrolyte solution) may use anhydrous salt melts, but they require the use of very high temperatures (about 600 to 1200° C.). The method using the anhydrous salt melts requires great amounts of energy, for example, for production of only one kilogram of metallic magnesium (Mg) from fused MgCl2, about 35 KW-Hour of power is required, including additional power for dewatering the MgCl2.

Methods exist that use low temperatures (about 50 to 100° C.) for extraction of various reactive metals such as magnesium Mg from non-aqueous salt solutions where non-aqueous ionic liquids are used as the electrolyte. However, the disadvantage of these types of methods is that they are very inefficient due to their poor conductivity and as a result, small quantities of metals are produced and only in the form of a thin film. Further, the non-aqueous based ionic liquid (ionic fluid that has no water) used as the electrolyte in the electrolysis process is very costly, making the entire process inefficient and expensive.

Still other methods used for extraction of metals use electrolysis in three-chamber electrodialyzer during which the water solution containing metal ions is divided on alkali and acid solution, and metal extraction from alkali solutions is realized from the upper surface of liquid metal cathode separated by dielectric spacer from working chamber of electrodialysis unit. The disadvantage of this method is the impossibility to obtain pure active metals (e.g., magnesium Mg) on the cathode due to existence of oxygen (in the aqueous electrolyte), resulting in an oxide or hydroxide compound of the active metal and in the case of magnesium Mg, high possibility exists that the ion-exchange membranes will be clogged very quickly.

Accordingly, in light of the current state of the art and the drawbacks to current methods for production and purification of metals mentioned above, a need exists for an apparatus and method that would efficiently extract and produce large volumes of metals from aqueous (i.e., water) based electrolyte solutions. Non-limiting, non-exhaustive examples of metals that may be used may include active metals having greater negative electrochemical potential than the potential of hydrogen evolution due to splitting of water (since the electrolyte solution used would be substantially aqueous or water-based electrolyte).

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

A non-limiting, exemplary aspect of the present invention provides a method for production of a metal, comprising:

providing a substantially inert environment within which a metallic element M is generated from a metal ion Mz+.

A non-limiting, exemplary optional aspect of the present invention provides a method for production of a metal, wherein:

the inert environment is a result of skin effect on a conductive medium.

Another non-limiting, exemplary aspect of the present invention provides a device, comprising:

an ion exchange processor with an induced, substantially inert environment within which is received a metal ion Mz+, generating a metallic element M as follows:


Mz++ze=M

where z is metal valence, and e is the electron charge.

Still another non-limiting, exemplary aspect of the present invention provides a method for production of a metal, comprising:

providing a substantially inert environment within which a metallic element M is generated from a metal ion Mz+, with the inert environment being the result of a conductive, but chemically neutral solution that circulates within a cathode chamber, which is neutral in relation to the metal ion Mz+ and the metallic element M.

A further non-limiting, exemplary aspect of the present invention a metal extractor, comprising:

an ion exchange processor separated into one or more cation ion exchange processing cells and an anion ion exchange processing unit;

with the one or more cation ion exchange processing cells having a cathode chamber with a substantially inert environment within which a metallic element M is generated from a metal ion Mz+;

the inert environment is a result of a conductive, but chemically neutral solution that circulates within a cathode chamber, which is neutral in relation to the metal ion Mz+ and the metallic element M.

Such stated advantages of the invention are only examples and should not be construed as limiting the present invention. These and other features, aspects, and advantages of the invention will be apparent to those skilled in the art from the following detailed description of preferred non-limiting exemplary embodiments, taken together with the drawings and the claims that follow.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

It is to be understood that the drawings are to be used for the purposes of exemplary illustration only and not as a definition of the limits of the invention. Throughout the disclosure, the word “exemplary” is used exclusively to mean “serving as an example, instance, or illustration.” Any embodiment described as “exemplary” is not necessarily to be construed as preferred or advantageous over other embodiments.

Referring to the drawings in which like reference character(s) present corresponding part(s) throughout:

FIG. 1A is non-limiting, exemplary illustration of a metal extraction system and method in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 1B is non-limiting, exemplary illustration of a metal extraction system and method used for mass production in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2A is non-limiting, exemplary illustration of a metal extraction system and method in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2B is non-limiting, exemplary illustration of a metal extraction system and method used for mass production in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 3A is non-limiting, exemplary illustration of a metal extraction system and method in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention; and

FIG. 3B is non-limiting, exemplary illustration of a metal extraction system and method used for mass production in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

The detailed description set forth below in connection with the appended drawings is intended as a description of presently preferred embodiments of the invention and is not intended to represent the only forms in which the present invention may be constructed and or utilized.

In the description given below, when it is necessary to distinguish the various members, sections/portions, components, etc. of the different types of extraction methods from each other, the description will follow reference numbers with a small alphabet character such as (for example) “reservoirs 102a, 102b, 102c, etc.” If the description is common to all of the various members, sections/portions, components etc. of all extraction methods such as (for example) to all reservoirs 102a, 102b, 102c, etc. then they are simply referred to with reference number only and with no alphabet character such as (for example) “reservoir 102.”

The present invention defines aqueous as—of or containing water, typically as a solvent or medium; electrolysis as an electro-chemical process for decomposition of matter (into ions) that is produced by passing an electric current through a liquid or solution (electrolyte solution) containing ions; electrodialysis as an electrochemical process in which the movement of ions and their separation is aided by an electric field applied across the semi-permeable ion exchange membrane.

Throughout the disclosure (which includes the drawings), specific references to magnesium Mg are illustrative and are only meant for convenience of example. In fact, any active metal or metals that have a negative electrochemical potential that is greater than the electrochemical potential of water (when ionized during electrodialysis) may be used. Non-limiting, non-exhaustive listing of metals that may be used with the present invention may include alkaline metals Li, Na, K, Rb, Cs, etc., alkaline earth metals Mg, Ca, Sr, Ba, etc., and other metals such as Al, Mo, Ti, W, B, Si, Ge, As, Te, and etc.

Additionally, throughout the disclosure, specific reference to chloride salt water solutions are illustrative and are only meant for convenience of example. Various inorganic and organic aqueous reactive (active) metal salt solutions may be used, including, but not limited to, for example, hydrochloric, sulfuric, nitric, phosphoric, as well as organic salts (e.g., carbonic). Correspondingly, the non-limiting examples of anions of mentioned salts may include Cl, SO42−, NO3, PO43−, COOH, etc.

The present invention provides methods and systems for efficiently producing and/or purifying large volumes of active metals (or any other metals with greater negative electrochemical potential than the potential of hydrogen evolution due to electrolysis of an aqueous electrolyte) by electrodialysis at or near room temperature using an aqueous (i.e., water-based) electrolyte solution, a non-limiting example of which may include a metal-salt water solution (e.g., chloride water solution) of a metal to be extracted. The present invention provides a substantially inert environment (that is also airtight) within which an active metallic element M is generated from an active metal ion Mz+.

FIG. 1A is a non-limiting, exemplary illustration of a production of an active metal in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. As illustrated, the metal extractor system 100 is an airtight system (not allowing air to pass into the system) that is comprised of a reservoir 102 that includes a highly concentrated aqueous based electrolyte solution of reactive (active) metal in the form of a metal salt solution (at normal room temperature of about 25° C.):


Metal-Salt+H2O

Non-limiting example of an aqueous based electrolyte solution of reactive (active) metal in the form of a metal salt solution may include metal-salt powder (e.g., MgCl2) mixed in water to form the aqueous based electrolyte solution, such as:


MgCl2+H2O

In general, the aqueous based electrolyte solution is concentrated to a point where the solution is fully saturated with the metal salt powder (e.g., MgCl2). The amount of metal salt required to saturate the aqueous electrolyte solution dependents on many factors including the amount of the aqueous electrolyte solution used, temperature and pressure at which the concentrated aqueous electrolyte solution is prepared, and so on. Well known methods exist that can produce metal-salt water solutions for different types of metals, for example, dissolution of metal containing materials in acids.

As further illustrated in FIG. 1A, the metal extractor system 100 further includes a circulation tank 104 that receives the concentrated aqueous electrolyte solution (e.g., MgCl2+H2O) from the reservoir 102 at a predetermined flow rate that is commensurate with a required rate of production of the metal to replenish and restore predetermined concentration levels of the aqueous electrolyte solution in the circulation tank 104. The rate of flow of concentrated aqueous electrolyte solution from reservoirs 102 and into the circulation tank 104 depends on many factors (which are detailed below).

The circuiting tank 104 should have a correct concentration level of ions for proper and efficient operation of an ion exchange processor 106 (detailed below). Accordingly, as the concentration of the aqueous electrolyte solution in the circulation tank 104 is diluted as a result of processes within the ion exchange processor 106 (e.g., electro-dialyzing the aqueous electrolyte solution), the content of the circulation tank 104 is replenished at a correct rate by the reservoir 102 to maintain an appropriate level of ion concentration inside the circulation tank 104. The replenishing rate and the dilution rate depends on many factors, all of which affect optimal operation (detailed below). Once the circulation tank 104 has sufficient concentrated levels of electrolyte solution, input from the reservoir 102 is shut-off.

As further illustrated in FIG. 1A, the ion exchange processor 106 in a non-limiting, exemplary form of a three-chamber electrodialysis module that receives the aqueous electrolyte solution from the circulation tank 104 via a first circuit 108, which also includes a first pump mechanism 110 that aids in the circulation of the aqueous electrolyte solution. The ion exchange processor 106 is separated into various chambers by one or more ion exchange membranes. A first (or working) chamber 122 of the ion exchange processor 106 is defined by a cation ion exchange membrane 112 at one side and an anion ion exchange membrane 124 at another side. In general, most ion exchange processors 106 also have at least the cathode chamber 114 that includes a cathode electrode 118 and an anode chamber 126 that includes an anode electrode 120, with both the cathode and anode electrodes 118 and 120 coupled with an electric power source for application of voltage across the electrodes, and passage of current through the entire ion exchange process 106 (via the aqueous electrolyte solution therein). The amount of voltage across the cathode and anode electrodes 118 and 120, and the current through the ion exchange processor 106 and the aqueous electrolyte solution therein depends on the physical, chemical, and electrical properties, characteristics, and parameters of the ion exchange membranes 112 and 114.

In general, the process of electrodialysis (via the ion exchange processor 106) of the aqueous electrolyte solution assists in passage of metal ions Mz+ through a cation ion exchange membrane 112, enabling unidirectional movement of the cations (e.g., Mg2+) into a cathode chamber 114 that includes a conductive medium 116 (that functions as the cathode). The metal ions Mz+ are electro-deposited as metallic elements M within the cathode chamber 114 as follows:


ze+Mz+=M

where z is an integer equal to valency and e is electron charge of a cathode electrode 118, with the electron charge resulting from an application of voltage across the ion exchange processor 106. The conductive medium (or cathode) 116 within the cathode chamber 114 functions as a conductor of charges supplied from the cathode electrode 118 to the metal ion Mz+ to thereby facilitate the production (extraction) of metallic elements M.

More specifically, the ion exchange processor 106 includes the first (or working) chamber 122 that receives the aqueous electrolyte solution from the circulation tank 104 via the first circuit 108. Upon entering chamber 122, the dissociated constituent cations of Mz+ of the metal-salt within the aqueous electrolyte solution move toward and are passed through the cation ion exchange membrane 112 under the influence of the applied voltage across the electrodes 118 and 120. In addition, the dissociated constituent anions (e.g., Cl) of the metal-salt within the aqueous electrolyte solution move toward and are passed through the anion ion exchange membrane 124. The remaining aqueous electrolyte solution within the chamber 122 (now diluted—with less ions) is re-circulated or recycled through the first circuit 108 and back into the circulation tank 104, also further diluting the aqueous electrolyte solution within the circulation tank 104. That is, during the operation of the electrodialysis, the concentration of the electrolyte solution in the circulation tank 104 is diluted due to recirculation of the electro-dialyzed solution from the first chamber 122 of the electrodialysis 106 back into the circulation tank 104. The metal cations Mz+ move to the cathode chamber 114 and what is left in the first chamber 122 is an electrolyte solution with lesser concentration of metal cations Mz+, with the diluted solution pumped back into the circulation tank 104. Accordingly, where there is no more flow from the reservoir 102 and into the circulation tank 104, as the electrodialysis continues, the concentration of the metal cations Mz+ in the circulation tank drops with the concentration of ions in the electrolyte solution in the circulation tank becoming more and more diluted.

The level of dilution of the electrolyte solution (dilution into water as the metal ions Mz+ are removed from the first chamber 122 due to electrodialysis) is determined by detecting the current level through the ion exchange processor 106, which may be measured at the electrodes 118 and 120. It should be noted that although a generally constant voltage level is applied across the electrodes 118 and 120, the current and the level of current (generated and varied) is dictated by the ions and ion concentrations in the aqueous electrolytic solution. Accordingly, as the electrolyte solution becomes more diluted (lesser concentrations of ions) due to electrodialysis, the detected current through the ion exchange processor 106 drops below a predetermined threshold level, which indicates less efficient operation of the ion exchange processor 106 (there is less ions to process due to dilution). Therefore, as the electrolyte solution becomes diluted to a certain level (determined based on a predetermined current threshold level), the reservoir 102 replenishes the ion concentration in the circulation tank 104, which improves overall operational efficiency of the ion exchange processor 106.

The actual current or ion concentration levels for efficient operation of the ion exchange processor 106 is determined based on the properties of the ion exchange membranes such as, for example, the number of ion exchange membranes used, their surface areas, etc. The ion exchange membranes (cation or anion) have a maximum level of tolerance (or rating) for current through them. For example, application of high levels of current through the membranes (higher than their respective tolerance levels) will damage the ion exchange membranes. As indicated above, current and the level of current (generated and varied) are dictated by the ions and their concentration within the aqueous electrolytic solution. Therefore, too much concentrated ions may actually damage the ion exchange membranes due to higher generation of current levels beyond the maximum threshold level supported by the membranes. Accordingly, the rate at which the concentration of ions in the circulation tank 104 is replenished by the reservoir 102 is dictated by the properties (or limitations) of the ion exchange membranes. For example, in general, the larger the surface areas of an ion exchange membrane, the greater its maximum tolerance threshold level for the current.

In general, the ion exchange membranes are waterproof. The cation ion exchange membrane 112 includes a binding surface 134 facing the cathode chamber 114 for unidirectional movement of the metal ions Mz+ from the working chamber 122 and into the cathode chamber 114, with the ion exchange membrane 112 further facilitating the separation of the conductive medium 116 in the cathode chamber 114 from the working chamber 122.

In general, the properties of an ion exchange membrane are intimately associated with the electro-dialyzer characteristics, non-limiting examples of which may include the electrodialyzer dimensions (e.g. size), the type of metal being processed by the electro-dialyzer, chamber dimensions, etc. The following Table 1 is a non-limiting, non-exhaustive exemplary list of electrodialyzer properties (FIG. 1A) that may be considered for processing of an active metal (e.g., Mg) in accordance with the present invention:

TABLE 1
Ion Exchange Processing Property:Example
MgCl2 water solution concentration50g/l
Voltage10V
Ion Exchange Membrane TypesCation and Anion
(all water proof)
Ion Exchange Membrane Surface100cm2
Ion Exchange Membrane numbers:2 (one of each kind)
Distance between Ion Exchange Membrane0.3cm
Current Density0.03A/cm2

It should be noted that all of the above parameters may be varied commensurate with use and application for optimal operation. For example, the distances between ion exchange membranes may be reduced to only a few millimeters, the surface areas may be varied, the amount of voltage applied across the electro-dialyzer may be much larger or smaller, and so on. For example, increasing the ion exchange membrane's surface area will enable an increased application of current (a larger surface area will have a lower impedance with a greater capacity or tolerance in terms of increased current density), which would speed the electrodialysis process. That is, as the surface area increases, the impedance of the ion exchange membrane drops, allowing a greater application of current through the surface area of the membrane, which speeds the electrodialysis of the aqueous solution. On the other hand, reducing the surface area of the ion exchange membrane will have an opposite effect. The optimal surface area of the membrane or other properties is dictated by a variety of factors that as a whole comprise the overall characterizes of the electro-dialyzer. It should be noted that the selected ion exchange membranes need not have similar properties and may have varying properties in relation to one another. For example, the cation exchange membrane may have properties (physical, electrical, chemical, etc.) that are different from the anion exchange membrane or the bipolar exchange membrane. As a non-limiting specific example of a physical property of an ion exchange membrane, the cation ion exchange membrane 112 may have a larger surface area than the anion or other types of ion exchange membranes such as the use of bipolar ion exchange membranes (detailed below), or vice versa.

As illustrated in FIG. 1A, the aqueous electrolyte solution is circulated from the circulation tank 104 and into the ion exchange processing chamber 122, where under the influence of voltage across the respective anode and cathode electrodes 120 and 118, the anions (e.g., Cl) are move towards and pass through the anion ion exchange membrane 124. Upon coming into contact with the anode electrode 120, the anions (in this instance, Cl) become Cl elements, where they further react with other Cl elements to become Cl2 gas mixed within H2O, resulting in Cl2+H2O within the chamber 126. Numerous, well-known processes (such as a simple vacuuming of Cl2 gas) may be utilized to remove or neutralize the chlorine gas Cl2 from the anode chamber 126, with the remaining water recycled through second circulation tank 128. As illustrated, the second circulation tank 128 continuously pumps water by a second pump mechanism 130 via a second circuit 132 into the anode chamber 126.

As further illustrated in FIG. 1A, the dissociated constituent cations (e.g., Mg2+) of the aqueous electrolyte solution, under the influence of voltage across the respective anode and cathode electrodes 120 and 118, are move towards and pass through the cation ion exchange membrane 112 where they receive electrons at a surface 134 of the cation ion exchange membrane 112 that faces the cathode chamber 114, and are converted to metallic elements M (e.g., Mg) by electro-deposition. At the surface 134, the metallic elements M are propelled or pushed to a top surface 136 of the cathode chamber 114 due to skin effect, and washed away (detailed below) for extraction. As indicated above and further detailed below, the cathode chamber 114 has a conductive inert environment that conducts the electron charges to metal ions Mz+ to form the metallic element M, but forms an inert environment in relation to the metallic element M due to skin effect (detailed below).

The metal ions Mz+ from the working chamber 122 are moved into the cathode chamber 114 and are propelled to a surface 136 of the conductive medium 116 within the cathode chamber 114 as a result of current through the cathode chamber 114, and are removed from the cathode chamber 114 via removal circuit (detailed below) that uses a removal medium that does not react with the metal, and further processed and extracted as a metallic element M.

It is important that the conductive medium 116 cover the entire surface area 134 of the cation ion exchange membrane 112 facing the cathode chamber 114, regardless of the chamber dimensions (any chamber), including the cathode chamber 114. The conductive medium 116 (the cathode) of the cathode chamber 114 is a liquid metal comprised of material that enables generation of skin effect at surfaces 134 and 136 thereof due to the current passing through the conductive liquid metal 116 as a result of application of voltage across the electrodes 118 and 120. The liquid metal 116 may be selected from a group comprising of metals that are liquid in room temperature, non-limiting examples of which may include Hg, Ga, and or metallic alloys that are liquid in room temperature, non-limiting examples may include Bi57-In26-Snl7, Ga92-Sn8, Ga75-In25.

It should be noted that there is no reaction or diffusion of metallic element M with the conductive liquid 116 in the cathode chamber 114 due to generation of skin effect. That is, the movement of the metallic elements M to the surface 136 of the conductive liquid 116 within the cathode chamber 114 is much faster than any reaction time or diffusion rate of the metallic element M with or within the conductive liquid 116. In general, the cation ion exchange membrane 112 facilitates unidirectional movement of the metal ions Mz+ into the cathode chamber 114 under the influence of applied voltage across the electrodes 118 and 120 and simultaneously contains and isolates the conductive liquid 116 to within the cathode chamber 114, enabling the creation of a liquid surface 136 for generation of skin effect (detailed below) as a result of current through the cathode chamber 114, which aids in collection of the metallic elements M.

The skin effect is the tendency of the current to distribute itself within a conductor, with the current density being largest near the surface of the conductor. In this instance, the surface of the conductor is at the top 136 of the cathode chamber 114 and hence, metallic elements M are propelled to the surface 136 as a result of the application of current through the liquid conductor 116. Any material that enables generation of skin effect for transportation, collection, and removal of metallic element M may be used. In general, liquid metals are preferred since they are conductive (for conductive electron charges e-) and do not require application of heat to transform them into liquid. Another reason for use of liquid metal is that the application of the current through the metal readily generates skin effect on the surface of the metal, where metallic element M is propelled and collected. In general, the size of the metallic elements M collected at the surface 136 of the cathode liquid metal 116 as a result of the skin effect is in nano-particle size.

As further illustrated in FIG. 1A, the metallic elements M are removed (or washed away) from the surface 136 of the cathode 116 by a removal (or washing) medium 144 that does not react with the metallic element M. The washing medium 144 is circulated through the circuit 140, which washes the metallic elements M from the top surface 136 of the liquid metal 116, and moves the metallic elements M into the extraction tank 146 via the removal pump 142. Non-limiting, non-exhaustive listing of examples of the removal (or washing) medium 144 may be selected from a group comprising of silicon oil, carbon tetrachloride, kerosene, benzene, etc. In fact, the washing medium may comprise of well known chemically solutions that are neutral (do not react) in relation to the metallic element being processed (and may or may not be conductive). In general, at the extraction tank 146, the metallic elements M are extracted by either sedimentation or filtration. Sedimentation is used when the washing solution 144 is light (has a low density) where the metallic elements M settle at the bottom of a container. However, filtration is used when the washing solution 144 is heavier (has a high density) where the metallic elements float, which must later be filtered.

Example 1

FIG. 1A illustrates the water tank of the unit where magnesium chloride water solution having 50 g/l concentration is filled.

Electro-dialyzer characteristics are as followings:

Voltage 10 V

Membrane types MK-40, MA-40, MB-1E

Membrane surface 100 cm2

Membranes numbers 3 (one membrane from each kind)

Cathode chamber volume 30 cm3

The distance between membranes 0.3 cm

Current density 0.03 A/cm2

The cathode chamber 114 of the electro-dialyzer 106 is mercury filled (liquid metal 116), which serves as a cathode 116, while a stainless steel plate (120) serves as an anode 120. A removal medium layer 144 covers the cathode 116 and functions to remove the nano-particle metallic elements M from the top skin surface 136 of the cathode chamber 114 conductive liquid 116. The aqueous electrolyte solution is filled into the circulation tank 104 with the approximate, non-limiting exemplary rate of 1 liter/minute, from which it is pumped 110a and is passed into the working chamber 122 of separating electro-dialyzer 106.

During the electrodialysis process, the chlorine gas is formed in chamber 126, while concurrently, the extraction of metallic elements Mg from the aqueous electrolyitic solution to the mercury cathode 116 is controlled by electric current passing through the separating electrodialyzer 106. Magnesium collected on the mercury cathode 116 of the electro-dialyzer 106 is completely washed by silicon oil 144, circulated via circuit 140, and collected in the extraction tank 146, which can be removed after filtering of the oil 144.

FIG. 1B is a non-limiting exemplary schematic illustration of a metal extractor system in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention that divides the ion exchange processor illustrated in FIG. 1A into one or more cation ion exchange processing cells and an anion ion exchange processing unit. The method and system of the metal extractor of FIG. 1B includes similar corresponding or equivalent components, interconnections, and or cooperative relationships as the metal extractor method and system shown in FIG. 1A and described above. Therefore, for the sake of brevity, clarity, convenience, and to avoid duplication, the general description of FIG. 1B will not repeat every corresponding or equivalent component and/or interconnections that has already been described above in relation to metal extractor system that is shown in FIG. 1A.

As illustrated in FIG. 1B, the ion exchange processor 106 of FIG. 1A is divided into one or more cation ion exchange processor cells 150 and an anion ion exchange processor unit 152 for mass production of metallic element M. As remarked above, the amount of and the rate at which the aqueous electrolytic solution is processed to generate metallic elements M is largely dictated by the processing capacity (upper limit or tolerances) of the ion exchange membranes (in particular, the cation ion exchange membrane 112). Accordingly, in order to obviate this “bottle neck” affect that impedes and places an upper limit on the production of the metallic elements M due to the limiting electrical, chemical, and physical tolerances of the ion exchange membranes to mass produce the metallic elements M, the present inventions separates the cation processing of the ion exchange processor 106 from the anion processing. That is, as illustrated in FIG. 1B, the present invention first separates and then uses two or more parallel functioning cation ion exchange processor cells 150 instead of the one shown in FIG. 1A. The cumulative effect of increased number of the cation ion exchange processor cells 150 (and hence the inherent increase in the number of cation ion exchange membranes 112 functioning in parallel) is that such an arrangement cumulatively increases the electrical, chemical, and physical tolerances of the overall cation ion exchange membranes 112 used in the system and method used in FIG. 1B. More specifically, the greater the number of cells 150 (only three are shown for example), the larger the number of cation ion exchange membranes 112, which means accumulative, larger surface area for collection of metal ions Mz+, which also means speeding the production of metallic element M. Accordingly, the number of cells 150 is repeated so that the production of metal M is increased. Therefore, since the cation exchange process is the slower process (the “bottle neck” of the system), it is separated and multiplied.

FIG. 2A is a non-limiting exemplary schematic illustration of a metal extractor system in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention that further processes the chlorine gas Cl2 (which is poisonous) into a useful hydrochloric acid HCl. The method and system of the metal extractor of FIG. 2A includes similar corresponding or equivalent components, interconnections, and or cooperative relationships as the metal extractor method and system shown in FIGS. 1A and 1B and described above. Therefore, for the sake of brevity, clarity, convenience, and to avoid duplication, the general description of FIG. 2A will not repeat every corresponding or equivalent component and/or interconnections that has already been described above in relation to metal extractor system that are shown in FIGS. 1A and 1B.

As illustrated in FIG. 2A, the ion exchange processor 106b is separated into four chambers by the addition of a bipolar ion exchange membrane 202, which splits the anion chamber 126a (shown in FIG. 1A) into a secondary working chamber 204b and an anion chamber 126b. In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 2A, the ion exchange processor 106b includes the first (or working) chamber 122 that receives the aqueous electrolyte solution from the circulation tank 104 via the first circuit 108. Upon entering chamber 122, the dissociated constituent cations of Mz+ of the metal-salt within the aqueous electrolyte solution move toward and are passed through the cation ion exchange membrane 112 under the influence of the applied voltage across the electrodes 118 and 120. In addition, the dissociated constituent anions (e.g., Cl) of the metal-salt within the aqueous electrolyte solution move toward and are passed through the anion ion exchange membrane 124 and into the secondary working chamber 204. As illustrated in FIG. 2A, the secondary chamber 204 is separated from the anode chamber 126 by the bipolar ion exchange membrane 202 where under the influence of the applied voltage across the electrodes 118 and 120, the dissociated constituent water cations hydrogen are moved toward and are passed through the bipolar ion exchange membrane from the anode chamber and into the secondary chamber 204 and combine with the anions of chlorine to form HCl. The formed hydrochloric acid is moved via the second circuit 132 and into the second circulation tank 128 via the second pump mechanism 130. Accordingly, the following is the result of the ion exchange processor 106:


MClz+H2O=>Mz++HCl+OH

wherein MClz is the chloride of the metal M in aqueous solution that is separated into metal ion Mz+ in a working chamber 122, HCl in a secondary working chamber 204, and OH in the anode chamber 126. Therefore, due to addition of a bipolar ion exchange membrane 202, instead of generating chlorine gas Cl2 (which is poisonous), the present embodiment generates useful hydrochloric acid HCl. The following Table 2 is a non-limiting, non-exhaustive exemplary list of electrodialyzer properties (FIG. 2A) that may be considered for processing of an active metal (e.g., Mg) in accordance with the present invention:

TABLE 2
Ion Exchange Processing Property:Example
MgCl2 water solution concentration50g/l
Voltage10V
Ion Exchange Membrane TypesCation, Anion, Bipolar
(all water proof)
Ion Exchange Membrane Surface100cm2
Ion Exchange Membrane numbers:3 (one of each kind)
Distance between Ion Exchange Membrane0.3cm
Current Density0.03A/cm2

FIG. 2B is a non-limiting exemplary schematic illustration of a metal extractor system in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention that divides the ion exchange processor illustrated in FIG. 2A into one or more cation ion exchange processing cells and an anion ion exchange processing unit. The method and system of the metal extractor of FIG. 2B includes similar corresponding or equivalent components, interconnections, and or cooperative relationships as the metal extractor method and system shown in FIG. 1A to 2A and described above. Therefore, for the sake of brevity, clarity, convenience, and to avoid duplication, the general description of FIG. 2B will not repeat every corresponding or equivalent component and/or interconnections that has already been described above in relation to metal extractor system that is shown in FIG. 1A to 2A.

As illustrated in FIG. 2B, the ion exchange processor 106 of FIG. 2A is divided into one or more cation ion exchange processor cells 150 and an anion ion exchange processor unit 152 for mass production of metallic element M. As remarked above, the amount of and the rate at which the aqueous electrolytic solution is processed to generate metallic elements M is largely dictated by the processing capacity (upper limit or tolerances) of the ion exchange membranes (in particular, the cation ion exchange membrane 112). Accordingly, in order to obviate this “bottle neck” affect that impedes and places an upper limit on the production of the metallic elements M due to the limiting electrical, chemical, and physical tolerances of the ion exchange membranes to mass produce the metallic elements M, the present inventions separates the cation processing of the ion exchange processor 106 from the anion processing. That is, as illustrated in FIG. 2B, the present invention first separates and then uses two or more parallel functioning cation ion exchange processor cells 150 instead of the one shown in FIG. 2A. The cumulative effect of increased number of the cation ion exchange processor cells 150 (and hence the inherent increase in the number of cation ion exchange membranes 112 functioning in parallel) is that such an arrangement cumulatively increases the electrical, chemical, and physical tolerances of the overall cation ion exchange membranes 112 used in the system and method used in FIG. 2B. More specifically, the greater the number of cells 150 (only three are shown for example), the larger the number of cation ion exchange membranes 112, which means accumulative, larger surface area for collection of metal ions Mz+, which also means speeding the production of metallic element M. Accordingly, the number of cells 150 is repeated so that the production of metal M is increased. Therefore, since the cation exchange process is the slower process (the “bottle neck” of the system), it is separated and multiplied.

FIG. 3A is a non-limiting exemplary schematic illustration of a metal extractor method and system in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention that does not utilize liquid metal as the cathode of the ion exchange processor 106. The method and system of the metal extractor of FIG. 3A includes similar corresponding or equivalent components, interconnections, and or cooperative relationships as the metal extractor method and system shown in FIGS. 1A to 2B and described above. Therefore, for the sake of brevity, clarity, convenience, and to avoid duplication, the general description of FIG. 3A will not repeat every corresponding or equivalent component and/or interconnections that has already been described above in relation to metal extractor system that are shown in FIGS. 1A to 2B.

As illustrated in FIG. 3A, the disclosed metal extractor system and method do not use a liquid metal 116 as the cathode of the ion exchange processor 106 within its cathode chamber 114. Instead, the embodiment disclosed in FIG. 3A utilizes a conductive non-aqueous electrolyte solution that contains methanol with metallic salt additives that dissolve in the methanol to form the conductive non-aqueous electrolyte solution. The benefit and added advantage of using a chemically neutral solution (in relation to the metallic element M) that is conductive and non-aqueous electrolyte solution is particular important for large-scale productions since conductive non-aqueous electrolyte solution has no requirement for a conductive medium, such as conductive liquid metal, a non-limiting example of which may be mercury (with several environmental issues and limitations).

The circulation of the conductive non-aqueous electrolyte solution through the cathode chamber 114 shown in FIG. 3A provides a flow of electrolyte solution through the cathode chamber 114 and via a washing cycle cleans the electro-deposited metallic elements M from the surface of cathode electrode 118. It should be noted that the electrolyte solution circulating through the cathode chamber 114 is conductive electrolyte solution that is inert in relation to the metallic element M. However, the inert environment created is not due to skin effect as in the above embodiments. That is, the conductive non-aqueous electrolyte solution is such that it does not react with the metallic element M. It is preferred to use metallic salts that include a metallic component that is the same as that of the metallic element M being extracted. Non-limiting example of a conductive non-aqueous electrolyte solution for extraction of Mg may be selected from the group comprising methanol that is saturated with MgCl2. It should be noted that prior to saturation, both methanol and MgCl2 must be dehydrated. In general, non-aqueous electrolyte solution for extraction of metals M may be selected from the group comprising solvents (e.g., methanol, heptane, benzene, kerosene, silicon oil, etc.) that are saturated with metal-salts of the metal M. As indicated above, the advantage of the ion exchange processor 106c illustrated in FIG. 3A is that it does not utilize liquid metals such as mercury, which have been know to be environmentally harmful, especially if used in large scale operations.

More specifically, in the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 3A, the ion exchange processor 106 includes the first (or working) chamber 122 that receives the aqueous electrolyte solution from the circulation tank 104 via the first circuit 108. Upon entering chamber 122, the dissociated constituent cations of Mz+ of the metal-salt within the aqueous electrolyte solution move toward and are passed through the cation ion exchange membrane 112 under the influence of the applied voltage across the electrodes 118 and 120. Upon entering the cathode chamber 114 and contacting the cathode electrode 118, the dissociated constituent cations of Mz+ receive electrons at a surface 302 of cathode electrode 118 that faces the interior of the cathode chamber 114, and are converted to metallic elements M (e.g., Mg) by electro-deposition. The continuous washing cycle flow of conductive non-aqueous electrolyte solution through the cathode chamber 114 washes clean the electro-deposited metallic elements M from the surface 302 of cathode electrode 118, and into the extraction tank 146 via the removal circuit 140. In the illustrated embodiment of FIG. 3A, the cathode chamber 114 is defined by the cathode electrode 118c that has an expanse with surface 302 that covers the entire area of an interior side of the cathode chamber 114c, paralleling the entire area of the cation ion exchanger membrane 112c at an opposite side with sufficient space in between the interior surface 302 of cathode electrode 118 and the cation ion exchanger membrane 112c to allow for a flow of the washing cycle of the non-aqueous electrolyte solution.

It should be noted that the movement of the cations Mz+ across the cathode chamber 114 (from the surface 134 of the cation exchange membrane 112 to the surface 302 of the cathode electrode) is much faster than the washing cycle of the non-aqueous electrolyte solution through the cathode chamber 114 (in between the membrane 112 and the electrode 118) and hence, the reason most of the cations Mz+ are not washed away prior to conversion to metallic elements M. In other words, the rate of speed at which metal ions Mz+ travel across the circulating chemically neutral solution and deposited onto the cathode electrode 118 is electrically driven and is due to the electrical current from the cathode chamber 118. That is, the metal ions Mz+ are driven across the very short span (of about 1 mm) of cathode chamber 114 under the influence of electrical voltage across the electrodes 118 and 120. This rate of speed is much faster than the rate of circulation of the chemically neutral solution through the cathode chamber, which is mechanically driven rather than electrical. Further, if any metal ions Mz+ are moved away without first being deposited onto the cathode electrode 118 as metallic elements M, the metal ions Mz+ are returned into the cathode chamber 118 by the circulating chemically neutral solution. That is, even if cations Mz+ are moved away, the entire process is a closed system and hence, the cations Mz+ are recycled back into the cathode chamber 114 via the removal circuit 140, where cations Mz+ are electro-deposited onto the surface 302 of the cathode electrode 118 and moved away into the extraction tank 146 as metallic elements M.

As a further note, the conductive non-aqueous electrolyte solution must be conductive to allow current to pass through the entirety of the ion exchange processor 106 otherwise, the solution will isolate the cathode electrode 118. Therefore, the in the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 3A, the conductivity of the chemically neutral, but conductive non-aqueous electrolyte solution is required so to enable current to pass through the cathode and other chambers of the ion exchange processor.

The following Table 3 is a non-limiting, non-exhaustive exemplary list of electrodialysis properties (FIG. 3A) that may be considered for processing of an active metal (e.g., Mg) in accordance with the present invention:

TABLE 3
Ion Exchange Processing Property:Example
MgCl2 water solution concentration50g/l
Voltage10V
Ion Exchange Membrane TypesCation, Anion, Bipolar
(all water proof)
Ion Exchange Membrane Surface100cm2
Ion Exchange Membrane numbers:3 (one of each kind)
Distance between Ion Exchange Membrane0.3cm
Current Density0.03A/cm2
Span of Cathode Chamber (distance1 mm to 1.2 mm.
between surface 302 of the cathode
electrode 118 and surface 134 of the cation
exchanger membrane 112)

FIG. 3B is a non-limiting exemplary schematic illustration of a metal extractor system in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention that divides the ion exchange processor illustrated in FIG. 3A into one or more cation ion exchange processing cells and an anion ion exchange processing unit. The method and system of the metal extractor of FIG. 3B includes similar corresponding or equivalent components, interconnections, and or cooperative relationships as the metal extractor method and system shown in FIG. 1A to 3A and described above. Therefore, for the sake of brevity, clarity, convenience, and to avoid duplication, the general description of FIG. 3B will not repeat every corresponding or equivalent component and/or interconnections that has already been described above in relation to metal extractor system that is shown in FIG. 1A to 3A.

As illustrated in FIG. 3B, the ion exchange processor 106 of FIG. 3A is divided into one or more cation ion exchange processor cells 150 and an anion ion exchange processor unit 152 for mass production of metallic element M. As remarked above, the amount of and the rate at which the aqueous electrolytic solution is processed to generate metallic elements M is largely dictated by the processing capacity (upper limit or tolerances) of the ion exchange membranes (in particular, the cation ion exchange membrane 112). Accordingly, in order to obviate this “bottle neck” affect that impedes and places an upper limit on the production of the metallic elements M due to the limiting electrical, chemical, and physical tolerances of the ion exchange membranes to mass produce the metallic elements M, the present inventions separates the cation processing of the ion exchange processor 106 from the anion processing. That is, as illustrated in FIG. 3B, the present invention first separates and then uses two or more parallel functioning cation ion exchange processor cells 150 instead of the one shown in FIG. 3A. The cumulative effect of increased number of the cation ion exchange processor cells 150 (and hence the inherent increase in the number of cation ion exchange membranes 112 functioning in parallel) is that such an arrangement cumulatively increases the electrical, chemical, and physical tolerances of the overall cation ion exchange membranes 112 used in the system and method used in FIG. 3B. More specifically, the greater the number of cells 150 (only three are shown for example), the larger the number of cation ion exchange membranes 112, which means accumulative, larger surface area for collection of metal ions Mz+, which also means speeding the production of metallic element M. Accordingly, the number of cells 150 is repeated so that the production of metal M is increased. Therefore, since the cation exchange process is the slower process (the “bottle neck” of the system), it is separated and multiplied.

Although the invention has been described in considerable detail in language specific to structural features and or method acts, it is to be understood that the invention defined in the appended claims is not necessarily limited to the specific features or acts described. Rather, the specific features and acts are disclosed as exemplary preferred forms of implementing the claimed invention. Stated otherwise, it is to be understood that the phraseology and terminology employed herein, as well as the abstract, are for the purpose of description and should not be regarded as limiting. Therefore, while exemplary illustrative embodiments of the invention have been described, numerous variations and alternative embodiments will occur to those skilled in the art. For example, the extraction methods described may be applied Cs and other like metals (e.g., active or reactive metals). Such variations and alternate embodiments are contemplated, and can be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention.

It should further be noted that throughout the entire disclosure, the labels such as left, right, front, back, top, bottom, forward, reverse, clockwise, counter clockwise, up, down, or other similar terms such as upper, lower, aft, fore, vertical, horizontal, oblique, proximal, distal, parallel, perpendicular, transverse, longitudinal, etc. have been used for convenience purposes only and are not intended to imply any particular fixed direction or orientation. Instead, they are used to reflect relative locations and/or directions/orientations between various portions of an object.

In addition, reference to “first,” “second,” “third,” and etc. members throughout the disclosure (and in particular, claims) is not used to show a serial or numerical limitation but instead is used to distinguish or identify the various members of the group.

In addition, any element in a claim that does not explicitly state “means for” performing a specified function, or “step for” performing a specific function, is not to be interpreted as a “means” or “step” clause as specified in 35 U.S.C. Section 112, Paragraph 6. In particular, the use of “step of,” “act of,” “operation of,” or “operational act of” in the claims herein is not intended to invoke the provisions of 35 U.S.C. 112, Paragraph 6.