QLD pilot plant the latest effort in race to address booming high-purity alumina market

A two-year pilot plant study, linking Lava Blue, Queensland University of Technology and the Innovative Manufacturing CRC, is the latest attempt to tap into the fast-expanding market for high-purity alumina.


High-purity alumina (HPA) is an in-demand material, used in applications including coatings for lithium ion battery separators, LED production, and synthetic sapphire production. The Lava Blue project aims to develop processes that are currently at laboratory-scale and able to process HPA from kaolin clay.


“Because HPA is presently made by starting with high-purity aluminium metal, it is quite an expensive material,” said Michael McCann, managing director of Lava Blue, adding that Australia could be a leading global supplier.


“The Lava Blue HPA project will erode the technical risks of scaling up HPA production from kaolin, while developing advanced controls that will deliver the critical quality control required for this high purity, specialised product.”


According to research by CRU, global demand for 4N (99.99 per cent purity) or better HPA is tipped to expand by 30 per cent a year, reaching 272,000 tonnes in 2028, but with a significant supply shortfall. A number of Australian companies including Altech Chemical (ASX:ATC), FYI Resources (ASX:FYI), Alpha (ASX:A4N), and Andromeda Metals (ASX:ADN) have announced plans to exploit the demand.


The pilot plant is to be built at QUT’s Banyo Plant facility. Project lead for the $4.5 million project, Dr Sara Couperthwaite, said the Lava Blue process was very versatile, and could tailor HPA for different applications. It is being supported through $645,000 funding from the IMCRC.


“This research grant enables us to develop a manufacturing process and pilot plant that is capable of collecting large quantities of real-time data that can be data mined and used to enhance the performance of the process,” added Couperthwaite.  


Picture: mining.com


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