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Converting Waste Agricultural Biomass into a Resource. How a Rice Miller an Earn Extra Income in Extraction of Ultrapure Silicon from Rice Husk Ash Project

Friday, September 29, 2017

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Rice Husk, generally considered as agricultural waste, is mainly used for energy generation, and also used as raw materials to develop technological products such as high purity silica ash, silicon carbide and zeolites. A major inorganic component of RICE Husk is silica (about 20-30 wt. %). Upon leaching with mineral acid and calcination, silica with high purity in amorphous form could be extracted from RICE HUSK. In the past few years our group used ricse husk silica (RICE HUSKS) in the synthesis of different kinds of zeolites including NaY, BEA, MOR, and mesoporous MCM.

Rice Husk a, derived from burning of Rice Husk is also an agricultural excess. Rice Husk a is generally used as soil ameliorants to help break up clay soils and improve soil structure but is also used as silica source as an insulator in the steel industry and as a pozzolan in the cement industry. Being less carbonaceous, Rice Husk a could be easily coursed through heat-treatment to extract amorphous silica.6,7 In another couple of studies, Rice Husk a containing crystalline tridymite and α-cristobalite was used as an alternative silica source for the syntheses of BEA and ZSM-5 zeolites.  A work characterized the ash produced from combustion of Rice Husk in fluidized bed reactor showing speed and continuity of the process.

Impurity optimized silicon is needed for the advancement of terrestrial photovoltaic power generation. Producing solar grade silicon from Rice Husks has been pursued. An integrated process flowsheet was developed and practiced that included initial leaching, reduction of Rice Husk ash (RICE HUSKA) and post-reduction purification of silicon. Metallothermic reduction of purified RICE HUSKA with magnesium was investigated within the temperature range of 500-950ºC. The reduction product was purified by two stage acid leaching sequence. Analysis of the final silicon powder product by XRD and ICP-OES showed crystalline silicon with boron content to be less than 3ppm- corresponding to reduction by a factor greater than 10, whilst the phosphorus content was reduced by a factor of over 20 and reaching less than 73 ppm.

Properties of Silicon

Silicon is a crystalline semi-metal or metalloid. One of its forms is shiny, grey and very brittle (it will shatter when struck with a hammer). It is a group 14 element in the same periodic group as carbon, but chemically behaves distinctly from all of its group counterparts. Silicon shares the bonding versatility of carbon, with its four valence electrons, but is otherwise a relatively inert element.

Process of extraction

1. Digestion:This involves the digestion of the Rice Husk ash with caustic at specific conditions. In this process the silica in the ash is gets extracted with caustic to form sodium solution. After the completion of the digestion the solution is filtered for the residual undigested ash present in the solution. The clear filtrate is taken for precipitation.

2. Precipitation:This step involves precipitation of silica from the sodium silicate solution. Carbon dioxide at a specific flow rate is passed through the silicate solution at design conditions. Continuous stirring is employed during the operation. The precipitated silica is filtered, washed with water to remove the soluble salts and dried. The filtrate containing sodium carbonate is taken for regeneration.

3. Regeneration:Regeneration is the step where calcium compound reacts with the sodium carbonate to form calcium carbonate and sodium hydroxide. The resulting solution is filtered to remove the solid calcium carbonate and aqueous sodium hydroxide is used for digestion again. The calcium carbonate is washed with water and dried. The dried calcium carbonate can be either calcined to get calcium oxide, which is reused, for regeneration or the calcium carbonate is sold and fresh calcium hydroxide is used for regeneration which gives an option of one more value addition.

4. Production of Ultrapure Silicon:  A chlorine based system is used in the method of transferring silicon from SiO2 to polysilicon. The process is flexible enough to allow the use of chlorine as the halide conversion medium by modifying the process, hydrogen, argon and a silicon chloride containing gas are injected into inductively coupled plasma operating at a temperature of approximately 2500°C.

Under these conditions, the silicon chlorides decompose to silicon, chlorine, and possibly hydrogen ions, and the gaseous product flows into a baffled cold trap held at approximately 1500°C. by resistance heating.

Silicon is used in the aluminium industry to improve castability and weldability, not to add strength as noted in the text. Silicon-aluminium alloys tend to have relatively low strength and ductility, so other metals, especially magnesium and copper, are often added to improve strength. Silicon resins are widely used as coatings, moulding compounds, laminates sealants, room temperature curing cements for electrical insulation, impregnating electric coils, bonding agents and vibrating damping devices. Semiconductor grade silicon is used in the manufacture of silicon chips and solar cells. Fumed silica is used as filler in the cement and refractory materials industries, as well as in heat insulation and filling material for synthetic rubbers, polymers and grouts. Silicon rubbers are versatile materials, which find application in a wide variety of products. It is also used in medical devices used within the body (surgical).’

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