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Extraction

of Metals (AQA)
This isnt the most exciting of topics as there is quite a bit of fact learning involved. But it isnt much
harder than GCSE level and is easy marks, so its worth sticking with it.

Ores
Unfortunately the majority of metals are not found just lying around on their own, with exceptions such
as gold. The metals are found in rocks (the ore) as oxides or sulphides e.g. Fe2O3 or Al2O3 and therefore
they need to be extracted/separated from the other elements.
Sulphides cannot be converted into the metal directly so they need to be converted into the metal
oxides. This process is called roasting, which just means burning or reacting with oxygen e.g.
2ZnS(s) + 3O2(g) 2ZnO + 2SO2(g)
The problem with this is that SO2 gas is produced, which of course contributes to acid rain. To get round
this problem, they convert the SO2 into H2SO4 (sulphuric acid) before it is released into the atmosphere.

Extraction Methods
In this topic there are three main methods that you need to know about:
1.reduction with C or CO (metal has to be lower in the reactivity series than carbon)
2. electrolysis (metal has to be higher in the reactivity series than carbon)
3. reduction with a more reactive metal (some metals react with carbon and therefore cannot use
method 1 e.g. titanium).
4. reduction with H2 (some metals react with carbon and therefore cannot use method 1 e.g. tungsten).

Reduction With Carbon


Iron
Iron is found as the haematite (Fe2O3) ore and is extracted in a blast furnace by reduction with CO (a
cheap reducing agent).
There are several stages to this process and equations for each stage. I wouldnt learn them all. You can if
you want of course but they often extract Mn and Cu in a similar way or give you metals you havent
studied. You can work the equations out anyway (see below):
Stages:
1. heat the furnace (burn carbon (coke): C + O2 CO2 exothermic reaction)

2. make the reducing agent (CO2 reacts with more carbon): C + CO2 2CO


3. reduce the Fe: Fe2O3(s) + 3CO(g) 2Fe(l) + 3CO2(g). Note that the Fe is in liquid form and is
run off at the end to get it out of the blast furnace.
In Fe2O3, the Fe is in the +3 oxidation state and is being reduced to Fe: Fe3+ + 3e- Fe. Carbon in CO
has oxidation state +2 and is oxidised to +4, so overall it is a redox reaction.
There might be other oxides of iron in the ore as well so they will get reduced to Fe as well. Sometimes
you might just see C as the reducing agent rather than CO, but it is all just doing the same thing; you end
up with iron and the other product would be CO instead of CO2.
As I mentioned above, Mn and Cu are produced in a similar way. I have written out the reductions with
CO, but you could also reduce them with C instead:
MnO2(s) + 2CO(g) Mn(l) + 2CO2(g)
CuO(s) + CO(g) Cu(l) + CO2(g)
Advantages
The raw materials are cheap. The reactions are exothermic, therefore it is easy to keep the blast furnace
hot enough. The process is continuous, which increases its efficiency and the iron is pure enough to make
steel.
Disdvantages
Carbon dioxide is produced, which is of course a greenhouse gas. It only works for metals that are lower
in the reactivity series than carbon. Metals such as tungsten and titanium will react with carbon and
therefore cannot be extracted this way. If a very pure metal is required, this method is not useful as the
product always contains carbon impurities.

Electrolysis
Aluminium
Aluminium is a reactive metal and too reactive to be reduced with carbon (above carbon in the reactivity
series). It is found in the ore bauxite, Al2O3.
Electrolysis is something you will be familiar with from GCSE. Remember the two electrodes in a beaker
of water where oxidation happens and one electrode and reduction at the other?
Reduction: Al3+ + 3e- Al(l) (note the liquid Al)
Oxidation: 2O2- O2 + 4e-
And thats about all you need to know. You could get some GCSE style questions like why do the
electrodes need to be replaced? They are made from carbon and react with the O2 produced and
eventually wear away. The Al produced is also very pure.

Reduction with a more reactive metal

The main metal they use in this category is titanium using Mg or Na as the reducing agent. The overall
reaction using Mg is:
TiO2(s) + 2Mg(s) Ti(s) + 2MgO(s)
It is difficult to form pure titanium as Mg reacts with it to form an alloy. To get round this problem, a two
step process is used:

1. the TiO2 ore is converted to TiCl4: TiO2(s) + 2C(s) + 2Cl2(g) TiCl4(g) + 2CO(g)
2. the chloride is then reduced using Mg: TiCl4(g) + 2Mg(l) Ti(s) + 2MgCl2(l)

A few problems: the reaction needs to be done under an inert atmosphere (using argon) i.e. no O2
present to prevent Mg reacting with O2. It is a batch process, which means the titanium is not produced
continuously, this adds to the cost and the time it takes. The sodium and magnesium are also expensive.

Reduction with hydrogen


Tungsten
Tungsten is similar to titanium as it cannot be produced by reaction with carbon. However, it is produced
by reduction with hydrogen rather than with another metal. Its just the way they do it!
This is very straight forward. Tungsten (W) is found in the ore WO3 and is extracted by reduction with
hydrogen:
WO3 + 3H2 W + 3H2O
The tungsten produced is pure and H2 is a cheap reducing agent. However, H2 is highly flammable and the
energy costs are high for this process.

Recycling
An alternative to metal extraction is recycling. Aluminium and iron can be recycled but titanium and
tungsten cant due to the high levels of purity required.
Advantages: this process uses less energy than metal extraction. It is quite efficient as the scrap metal
that is recycled contains a high percentage of the desired metal. It doesnt produce the pollutant gases
like SO2 and CO2 that some of the above extraction methods do.
Disadvantages: it relies upon collecting a lot of scrap metal. This takes time, and it then requires the
desired metal to be separated from other metals, as inevitably it will be collected along with other
metals. After all this, the metal still needs to be purified to make it useful. All these steps add to the cost.

Using scrap Fe to extract Cu

An alternative method to produce copper is to extract the ore with scrap iron. The main reason for this is
cost. The process uses very little energy, can be used even on low grade Cu ores (those that dont contain
much copper) and the Fe is cheap.
The copper compounds are converted to Cu2+ ions using H2SO4 and then reduced to Cu using the scrap
Fe. Overall redox reaction:
Cu2+ + Fe Fe2+ + Cu

Note: in this topic if you know the main types of extraction methods, the advantages and disadvantages
of each and be able to write out half equations you will be fine. Examiners often throw in different metals
or different ores but it is the same principles as above.