We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Is Electrometallurgy?

By Paul Reed
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
About Mechanics is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At About Mechanics, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Electrometallurgy is a term used for processes that refine or purify metals using electricity. It can also be a general term for electrical processes used to plate one metal with another for decorative or corrosion resistance purposes. Metal processing using electricity is generally not the first step in metals purification, but rather a later or final step used to create very pure metals for other industrial processes.

Raw ore mined from the ground can contain a valuable metal such as gold, copper or aluminum with a large amount of impurities. Some processing can be done by melting the ores at high temperatures and separating the desirable metals. These processes give metals that still can contain an undesirable percentage of minerals or other metals. Electrometallurgy can be used in a number of ways to purify or separate the remaining products.

Electrowinning is a process that uses electric current passing through a water-based bath, called a cell, to separate the metal molecules, or ions, to a rod or plate. An electrical circuit consists of a positive and negative charge and a way for electrical current to flow between them. When two charged electrodes, called the cathode and anode, are placed in the cell, the metal ions will collect on one of the electrodes. Careful control of the voltage and current flow can create very pure metal deposits. This is a common process for purifying copper from less pure copper mixtures.

Another electrometallurgy process is electrorefining, which uses greater electrical currents to heat and melt partially refined ores to extract metals. This is a common process for aluminum refining, and is called the Hall process. In this process, partially refined aluminum oxide is first made from aluminum ore called bauxite. The aluminum oxide is then mixed with cryolite, a mineral composed of sodium, aluminum, and fluorine, which melts at a much lower temperature than aluminum oxide. When the mixture is exposed to high electrical currents, it melts and produces pure aluminum metal.

Electroplating is an electrometallurgy technique where an electrical current is passed through a water-acid bath containing a dissolved mixture of metal and other minerals. An object placed in this bath and given an electrical charge can attract the metal ions to its surface, which will then plate or deposit as a thin layer over the object. This is a common process to create plated items such as chrome parts used for automobiles, motorcycles and home appliances. Electroplated metals not only have a shiny decorative appeal, but the chrome plating acts as a corrosion-resistant covering to extend the life of the part.

Another process used in electrometallurgy is physical vapor deposition. This is similar to electroplating, because a metal is deposited on another surface. The metal is electrically vaporized to give it an electrical charge, and the surface to be coated is given the opposite charge, which causes a very fine layer of metal to be deposited. A vacuum chamber where the air is removed is typically used to remove oxygen that can contaminate the product. Vapor deposition is used where water-acid solutions might damage the parts, such as in some electrical circuits. It also has the ability to form very thin layers that can be useful in electronics and some industrial processes.

About Mechanics is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
About Mechanics, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

About Mechanics, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.