Hall-Heroult cell

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An electrolytic cell used industrially for the extraction of aluminium from bauxite. The bauxite is first purified by dissolving it in sodium hydroxide and filtering off insoluble constituents. Aluminium hydroxide is then precipitated (by adding CO2) and this is decomposed by heating to obtain pure Al2O3. In the Hall-Heroult cell, the oxide is mixed with cryolite (to lower its melting point) and the molten mixture electrolysed using graphite anodes. The cathode is the lining of the cell, also of graphite. The electrolyte is kept in a molten state (about 850°C) by the current. Molten aluminium collects at the bottom of the cell and can be tapped off. Oxygen forms at the anode, and gradually oxidizes it away. The cell is named after the US chemist Charles Martin Hall (1863–1914), who discovered the process in 1886, and the French chemist Paul Heroult (1863–1914), who discovered it independently in the same year.

Subjects: Chemistry.

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