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Purification of niobium oxide by dissolution and solvent extraction

Minerals & Metallurgical Processing , 2011, Vol. 28, No. 4, pp. 204-207

Nathsarma, K.C.; Nayak, B.B.; Brahmbhatt, P.; Pradhan, S.


 An attempt was made to extract niobium oxide from ~98.5% Nb2O5 using solvent extraction processes. Nb2O5 is used as the feed material in carbothermic reduction processes aimed at producing high-homogeneity, superconductor-grade niobium on a laboratory scale. The Nb metal used for superconductor applications requires a residual resistivity ratio (RRR) > 300, which in turn needs a stringent purity of Nb and allows impurities (substitutional and interstitial) in ppm levels only. In this paper, solvent extraction of niobium was studied under various experimental conditions, such as effect of different extractants, concentration of methyl isobutyl ketone (MIBK) in the organic phase and concentration of various acids. The concentrate was digested with hydrofluoric acid, with ammonium fluoride (NH4F) as a stripping agent. The extraction of niobium from low hydrofluoric- (HF-) bearing solution was found to be low. Thus, various concentrations of hydrofluoric acid and sulfuric acid, as well as hydrofluoric acid and hydrochloric acid, were investigated towards obtaining a maximum amount of niobium in the filtrate and a minimum amount of niobium in the residue. A McCabe - Thiele plot for extraction of niobium from the aqueous phase, HF-bearing solution using HCl with 85% MIBK in kerosene has been constructed to determine the O:A ratio and the number of stages of the process.