Sticking-Free Reduction of Titanomagnetite Ironsand in a Fluidized Bed Reactor
Fluidized bed reduction of iron ore fines is typically inhibited by the onset of "sticking" at temperatures above 973 K, which leads to particle agglomeration and defluidization of the bed. Here, we report the sticking-free fluidized bed reduction of titanomagnetite (TTM) ironsand at 1223 K in Ar-H2 gas mixtures. We show that sticking is prevented by the formation of a protective titanium-rich oxide shell around each particle during the initial reduction stage. This protective shell prevents iron-iron contact between particles throughout the reduction process, enabling metallization degrees of 93 pct to be attained without sticking occurring. Phase evolution during the reaction has also been analyzed using q-X-ray diffraction and scanning electron microscope/energy dispersed spectroscopy. We find that the reduction proceeds through four separate stages. During the initial stage, approximately half of the initial TTM phase is converted to wüstite, forming a network of sub-micron wüstite channels which interlace the TTM matrix. During this stage, Ti and Al are enriched within the TTM matrix, due to the low solubility of both species in wüstite. This enrichment stabilizes the remaining TTM, meaning that wüstite is then preferentially reduced to metallic iron in stage 2 of the reduction. In stage 3, the remaining Ti-enriched TTM is reduced directly to metallic iron and ilmenite. The final stage of reduction involves the conversion of ilmenite into rutile and pseudobrookite. Our findings clarify the important role played by titanium species during the reduction of TTM and suggest that New Zealand ironsand can offer significant advantages over conventional hematite ores when used as a feedstock for fluidized bed direct-reduced iron processes.