Bauxite in two hands.

CSIRO research will unlock bauxite deposits currently thought to be uneconomic to process.

Making bauxite processing safer

Australia is the biggest producer of bauxite in the world and produces almost one third of the world's bauxite. Once mined, bauxite ore must undergo a process (the Bayer process) to recover the alumina which is then used to produce aluminium. (3:55)

  • 10 February 2009

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Problems can arise when organic carbon, ranging from intact plant material through to decayed plant and animal remnants found in bauxite, causes hydrogen to be produced during the process, producing the risk of the hydrogen–oxygen mixtures exploding in the presence of a spark or catalyst.

A Light Metals Flagship research team led by Dr Joanne Loh (working through the Parker CRC for Integrated Hydrometallurgy Solutions) has been investigating ways to reduce the impact of organic compounds in the Bayer process. They are investigating the use of wet oxidation as a way to remove organic carbon.

In this podcast Dr Loh explains how and why hydrogen is produced when wet oxidation is used during the process.

The findings have important safety implications given the potential for the hydrogen–oxygen mixtures to explode if ignited.

National Research Flagships

CSIRO initiated the National Research Flagships to provide science-based solutions in response to Australia’s major research challenges and opportunities. The nine Flagships form multidisciplinary teams with industry and the research community to deliver impact and benefits for Australia.

Read more about Strategic R&D investment benefits bottom line (Media release 2 Feb 09).