Ways to Separate Metal From Ore

Smelting involves the use of very high temperatures.
••• Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images

The process of separating a metal from its ore is known as smelting. Smelting is widely practiced today and has a long history dating back to the Bronze Age, when ancient peoples first learned the technique. Smelting methods range from the basic to the high-tech, and are applied to a variety of materials, including aluminum, iron and copper.

Ancient Methods

Ancient civilizations, such as the Inca and the Greeks, used primitive techniques to separate ore and metal. Huge fires were built underneath hardened clay smelting pots. Holes were formed in the ceramic containers to drain molten metals. Sometimes the composite was ground by hand before placed in the furnace for melting.

Roasting and Reduction

Roasting is a technique by which carbon and sulfur react with metal to separate the ore. For example; copper acetate is reacted with chemicals to separate the copper, ore and residue. This mix is reduced, which involves placing it under extremely high temperatures, injecting a reagent (such as hydrogen or carbon dioxide), and melting away the metal.

Forming, Baking and Rodding

These three steps are actually part of one general process used in smelting aluminum and other metals. The process involves taking alumina (a compound composed of aluminum and oxygen) and placing it in large carbon-lined furnaces. The alumina melts down into cryolite, which is electrically conductive. Electricity is then pumped through anodes, a process known as forming. The substance is baked at temperatures of over 1,000 degrees Celsius, at which point impurities are extracted. Rodding is the final step of diverting the ore from the metal.

Gas-fired Smelting Furnace

Small, gas-powered smelting furnaces can also be used to separate metal from ore. A cylindrical sheet metal container is built over a gas flame (propane can also be used). Then, a network of tubing is fitted around the smelter. The tubing includes a gas line, an air line, and other piping. A crucible (usually made out of graphite or clay) is used to dip into the smelter to extract molten metal and ore.

Related Articles

How to Purify Gold
How Is Gold Extracted From Gold Ore?
Gold Refining Techniques
How Benzene is Made
Uses for Petroleum Coke
How to Make Calcium Carbide
Types of Gas Welding
How Is Gold Purified?
How to Weld Aluminum with an ARC Welder
What Is Zinc Alloy?
Can Aluminum Be Heated & Bent?
The Uses of Hydrocarbon Gas
What Are the Uses of Carbon Dioxide Gas?
Can You Melt Gold With Propane?
How to Make MSM Crystals
How to Melt Gold Out of Rocks
How Is Synthetic Camphor Made?
High Density Polyethylene Manufacturing Process
How Tantalum Is Mined
Refining Gold

Dont Go!

We Have More Great Sciencing Articles!