Research for industry productivity and sustainability

As a lightweight, flexible, and durable metal, aluminium is an essential resource that is used in construction, transportation, electronics, and packaging industries around the world. Australia remains the world’s largest producer of bauxite — an alumina-containing ore from which aluminium is refined — with approximately 390,000 metric tonnes produced in 2021. The Solution Chemistry Group at Murdoch University has significantly improved the bauxite refinement process by developing thermodynamically consistent models that can more efficiently remove organic impurities.

Each year, the Australian alumina industry employs more than 19,000 people and its exports contribute over $7.5 billion to the nation’s economy. Removing organic impurities from mined bauxite, however, is an ongoing challenge that results in lower alumina yields and requires an energy-intensive refinement process at a cost of more than $500 million per year.

Generating signifant improvements to this process, researchers from the Solution Chemistry Group at Murdoch University have developed models that can more accurately calculate the thermodynamic, chemical, and physical properties of ‘liquors’ produced throughout the refinement process.

The models developed by Murdoch University researchers have resulted in improved methods for processing and refining bauxite and alumina in Australia and have informed refinements in plant designs and control of impurities processing.

These innovations enhance the energy efficiency and the quantity and quality of output from alumina refineries. Through the Solution Chemistry Group’s research, Australian companies are able to remain globally competitive in their production of alumina for the world.

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