X'Press 1/2015

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X'Press 1/2015

Our periodical X'Press, the customers' voice, contains news items, reports of trips and conferences and customer stories.

'How to excel?' is the central theme of this first issue of X’Press in 2015. This is indeed an important question in a world with ever-increasing competition where it is essential to be noticed in order to be selected. And how else can you be noticed than by being better than others or excelling.

Excelling in lead production

BBH Stolberg bought its first PANalytical Axios X-ray fluorescence spectrometer in 2006. This system has since been used extensively for the analysis of slag from the QSL reactor and for analysis of intermediate products in lead refining. Samples are taken from strategic production steps, milled, pressed in steel holders and subsequently analyzed. The precise knowledge of elemental concentrations in the various process steps enables the optimization of the production process and is used for registration of material flows.

The Axios has been an extremely reliable workhorse for many years. BBH’s lab manager Dr. Christian Schramm is especially happy with its very high uptime and reliable service whereas the operators appreciate the ergonomics of the instrument and the intuitive user interface of the software. That’s why BBH didn’t hesitate to purchase a second system when the need for additional capacity came up.

For this new system BBH additionally required the possibility to insert samples into the instrument without an operator needing to enter the conditioned spectrometer room. This way contamination of the spectrometer and the surrounding lab area by the toxic lead and its compounds is minimized.

Two belts are now connecting the Axios instrument with the adjacent sample prep room through a hole in the wall. The operator places the samples for measurement on one belt from which they are picked up by the Axios sample changer. The other belt returns the samples after the measurement. The SamTracs software together with a customized, touch-screenbased sample introduction software, minimizes operator errors.

With this new installation BBH Stolberg is now ready for many more years of reliable process control without the risk of contaminating their lab space.

We are very satisfied with the fast and professional installation of our new Axios system. It was ready for daily work within a very short time thanks to the great support during and after the start-up period. Dr. Christian Schramm, lab manager at BBH Stolberg

Lead production

For its production of primary lead, BBH Stolberg relies on the environmentally friendly and energy-saving technology of the QSL process (named after the inventors Queneau, Schumann and Lurgi). Here, lead concentrates and secondary raw material are heated to 1200 °C under oxygen in the QSL reactor, a slightly tilted 33 m long cylindrical pipe.

At various locations of the reactor the products can be harvested and further processed. For example sulfur dioxide gas is converted into sulfuric acid and lead is further purified. Primary lead from Stolberg is used for batteries and accumulators in the automotive industry, in accumulators for emergency power supply and in the solar industry. The high-grade material from Stolberg is indispensable for manufacturing optical glass and lenses, for protection against radiation as well as against acids, and more.

(BBH) Stolberg

BERZELIUS Bleihütte (BBH) Stolberg, situated in the far west of Germany, is one of the largest and most modern lead smelters in the world. About 240 employees are responsible for an annual production of 150,000 tonnes of lead and lead alloys, along with 130,000 tonnes of sulfuric acid. The product portfolio also contains auriferous silver (‘Güldischsilber’) consisting of 99.6% silver along with some gold and platinum. Copper/lead matte and BERZELIT® slag complete the product range.

The company is certified in occupational safety, health, and environmental management as well as in quality, energy management and is a certified waste management company.

Combining technologies – PANalytical's new Zetium spectrometer

Simon Milner, product marketing manager X-ray fluorescence about ‘How to excel’

Zetium is more than just a wavelength dispersive spectrometer, it’s a unique combination of possibilities that puts it in a class of its own with respect to analytical power, speed and task flexibility. Simon Milner, product marketing manager X-ray fluorescence

Download X'Press 1/2015 at the bottom of this page to read the full article.

Excellent electrodes for the aluminum industry R&D

R&D Carbon (RDC) emerged in 1986 from Alusuisse (now Rio Tinto Alcan), when founder Werner K. Fischer took over their carbon materials research department. He was convinced that the alumiium industry would profit enormously from a better understanding of how anode and cathode quality depends on the properties of raw materials and on process parameters. Over the last 25 years R&D Carbon has established its reputation for being the expert of choice when dealing with properties and behavior of carbon electrodes and materials.

Composition and geometry of carbon anodes strongly influence the energy consumption during electrolysis and are thus of utmost importance for a cost-effective process. This is where R&D Carbon’s expertise plays a crucial role. Besides know-how and advice on all aspects of anode production, the company provides also equipment and services for testing and analyzing the stages in the life of a carbon electrode. Whenever there is a quality problem, RDC can provide help: from compositional analysis of the source material to the measurement of crystallite size in the finished anode.

PANalytical equipment is one of RDC’s assets for these analyses. Together with RDC’s calibration standards, the AxiosmAX X-ray fluorescence spectrometer provides accurate and precise compositional analysis of source materials (petroleum coke, coal tar pitch...) and of the final electrodes. Any impurities causing problems can easily be identified. PANalytical’s Empyrean X-ray diffractometer, on the other hand, serves to determine the size and arrangement of crystallites within the carbon. This microstructure determines the degree of heat treatment of the carbon and strongly influences its reactivity to air and CO2, as well as its electrical and mechanical properties.

In addition to its technical services, RDC has its own R&D department where intensive research in carbon electrode technology is performed. Their knowhow is then deployed by training and workshops worldwide. This way RDC’s aim of improving electrode quality, hence reducing metal production costs and lowering capital investment for production plants is increasingly realized.

Aluminum production and carbon

Carbon anodes are essential for the production of aluminum. In this energy-intensive process a molten mixture of alumina (Al2O3), aluminum fluoride (AlF3) and cryolite (Na3AlF6) is electrolyzed at 950 °C, yielding the elemental metal and oxygen. The carbon anode is gradually consumed by the subsequent reaction with the oxygen forming carbon dioxide gas. The worldwide aluminum production is about 50 million tons, consuming 30 million tons of carbon anodes.

Sources for carbon anodes are coke (from crude oil), pitch (from coal) and recuperated anode butts. All raw materials are individually prepared to form the green anodes that are eventually baked at 1100 – 1200 °C.

R&D Carbon

R&D Carbon is the world-leading supplier of know-how in the field of carbon electrodes. With headquarters in Sierre, Switzerland it serves the aluminum, petroleum refineries, coal tar distillers and hence the electrode industries worldwide.

Twenty engineers and skilled technical staff provide solid support to the company’s constant quest to improve product quality. R&D Carbon contributes substantially to reducing metal production costs and to lowering capital investment for production plants.

CubiX³ Iron – Strengthen your iron quality!

A few years ago, HKM (Hüttenwerke Krupp Mannesmann GmbH), one of the biggest German steelwork companies located in the heart of Germany’s steelmaking Ruhr region, pioneered the use of advanced X-ray diffraction (XRD) methods in the steel industry by installing a PANalytical CubiX³ industrial diffractometer (see X'Press 2/2013). Since then the demand for XRD applications in iron and steel production has increased considerably.

Originally sinter plants just wanted to replace their expensive wet-chemical methods for the simple quantification of Fe2+ by XRD. This analysis is required to reduce the coke consumption of the sinter plant.

Nowadays, however, to better steer the sinter process, the iron sinter community has embraced the advantage of knowing the total phase composition of the mixture. The same holds for other applications in the steel producing sector like the production of direct reduced iron (DRI) or the analysis of raw iron ore or raw materials.

That’s why a number of steel producing companies worldwide have now started to implement industrial X-ray diffractometers in their production processes. The aim is not only to produce sinter with better quality but also to increase the efficiency of the sinter process by lowering the coke consumption.

For these projects PANalytical has developed a dedicated automated solution incorporating hardware, software and expertise. The proven CubiX³ Iron industrial diffractometer is specially configured to the needs of iron and steel producers dealing with iron ore, iron ore sinter, direct reduced iron (DRI), raw mixtures and steel samples (retained austenite analysis).

The newest version of PANalytical’s HighScore Plus software package easily relates relevant process parameters such as FeO, Fe2+, Fe2+/Fe3+ and basicity (CaO/SiO2 ratio) directly to the raw XRD pattern by employing partial least squares regression (PLSR), a powerful statistical method.


Sinter is produced from fine ores, coke, recycled materials and fluxes like limestone or olivine. The sinter process takes place on a sinter strand where the mix is piled in a layer of 500-600 mm of height. The top of the layer is heated to more than 1350°C and ignited.

In modern steel production plants time-consuming wet chemical analysis methods belong to the past. An X-ray diffraction analysis can be done in less than 10 minutes. Dr. Uwe König, Product Marketing XRD

Building Materials Analysis Workshop

This acclaimed PANalytical workshop will be held this year on 14 – 17 June in Anaheim, CA, USA and will provide insight into the science of cement for industry and academic specialists.

Main topics are:
• New cements for sustainability and CO2 reduction
• Cement analysis in production, sampling, sample preparation and characterization
• Quantitative analysis for process control of blended cements