High-purity alumina (HPA) is a processed premium non-metallurgical alumina product characterised by its purity level – i.e. 99.99% (4N), 99.999% (5N). The market price, application and performance of HPA varies widely according to its degree of purity.
HPA is mainly used for its superior properties, such as corrosion and scratch resistance, high brightness, and its ability to withstand extreme temperatures. It is used as a base material in the manufacture of sapphire substrates for applications such as light emitting diodes (LEDs), in the manufacture of artificial sapphire glass (eg mobile phone and television screens) and in certain battery and power storage components; artificial gemstones; and special space, aeronautical and medical applications.
Increasing adoption of LED bulbs over traditional bulbs coupled with technological advancements drives the world HPA market. In addition, increasing investment in end use industries drives the world market for HPA. However, factors such as increasing HPA prices and presence of alternate treatment technologies are expected to hamper the market growth.
These product sectors are all high-end markets that are expected to show continued strong year on year growth.
Historical Challenges with HPA Production
The major challenge in the current processing of HPA is the rising cost of production. The manufacturing of HPA involves expensive feedstock (already refined aluminium metal), intensive labour and energy costs and a restrictive overlay of environmental conditions and stringent government regulations. Whilst there are several basic processing routes to produce HPA, the current most common method is hydrolysis of aluminium alkoxide.
In this process, refined aluminium metal and alcohol is synthesised to produce high purity aluminium alkoxide. Hydrated alumina is then produced by hydrolysis of the alkoxide. HPA is then obtained by calcination.
This process results in most current HPA producers being forced into using expensive feedstock material such as aluminium metal to produce HPA.
The Cadoux aluminous clay (kaolin) deposit’s high quality and ideal metallurgical characteristic is model feedstock for HPA process production. This high-quality alumina product will provide a competitive advantage in the global HPA market.
FYI Processing Strategy
FYI’s strategy is to re-engineer the HPA processing route by producing 99.99% alumina directly from an ore source – not from already refined aluminium metal. In achieving this, FYI will utilise standard flow sheet and proven off-the-shelf equipment in its process design to optimise production efficiencies and to reduce production risk.
FYI intends to utilise the low-cost, low-impurity, high grade aluminous clay, sourced from the Cadoux kaolin deposit as the feedstock in a hydrochloric acid leach (HCL) process which will be efficient and effective in the production of HPA. Sourcing ore from our own deposit at Cadoux will ensure security of supply and allows a very tight control over product quality and characteristics such as purity, size, crystal structure and products that may be especially engineered for specific markets and applications.