Researchers Use Nano-Material Imaging to Study Nickel Ore


Researchers Use Nano-Material Imaging to Study Nickel Ore

28 January 2014
 
A project that gathered researchers from the Curtin University Center for Materials Research and the Division of Process Science and Engineering at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) has resulted in the development of a novel technique for nano-material imaging. The method can be primarily used for identifying the extremely inconstant acid leaching values of nickel laterite ores, chiefly found in Western Australia, and is tipped to provide a leap ahead in their hydrometallurgical processing.
 
The study was led by Curtin PhD student Tony Wang, who used energy-filtered transmission electron microscopy (TEM) imaging to study the ores. TEM is generally a technique used for analyzing nano-materials and broadly unpopular with metallurgists and geologists, but its spatial resolution is much higher than that of conventional techniques based on scanning electron microscopy (SEM), Wang said.
 
In the case of TEM, electrons moving through the sample lose power and their detection allows the identification of these elements in nano-scale particles/sample features, he said.
 
Wang went on to explain that by examining ores with the help of inductively coupled plasma (ICP) mass spectrometry or X-ray fluorescence (XRF) techniques, researchers could define the amount of nickel contained in the ores, but not the amount that could be extracted, which can be substantially different. Because of this, the team at CSIRO used X-ray diffraction to analyze the mineralogy of the ores and come up with more precise information about the types of ores and the acid leaching rates that can be obtained.