Trace Elements in the Si Furnace-Part II: Analysis of Condensate in Carbothermal Reduction of Quartz


Silicon feedstock for production of solar-grade silicon should be as pure as possible to decrease the cost of manufacturing of solar cells. Impurities in quartz, carbonaceous materials, electrodes, and refractories are mostly present in the form of oxides. These oxides can be reduced to volatile gaseous compounds in presence of SiO(g) and CO(g) atmosphere and potentially leave the furnace or stay in the condensed reaction products, metal, and slag. This work investigates the conditions under which volatile impurities report to the gas phase in laboratory experiments with lumpy and pelletized mixtures of SiO2, SiC, and Si at 1923 K and 2123 K (1650 °C and 1850 °C), respectively, were carried out. The volatile compounds were generated by the reduction of quartz and collected in the form of condensate. The effects of the reaction temperature, quartz type, charge composition, pellets, and lumps on the composition of the condensate were studied. The trace elements in the charge input, reacting charge, and condensate were analyzed using inductively coupled plasma (ICP)-mass spectroscopy (MS) and X-ray diffraction (XRD). CO(g) and SiO(g), which are the major components in reduction reactions, formed four types of condensate: white, brown, green, and orange. The condensate constituents were amorphous SiO2, 3C:SiC, Si, and α-quartz. Each impurity present in the quartz charge entered the gas phase during quartz reduction and was detected in the condensate. Al and Fe show limited volatility. The volatility of Mn, P, and B depends on the charge mix: a higher PCO enhances the concentration of these elements in the gas phase. Fluid inclusions, common in hydrothermal quartz, enhance the distribution of the contaminants to the gas phase. Industrial campaigns on Si and Fe-Si production confirm the experimental results.

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The authors acknowledge John Sharp, Xing Xing, and Xiaohan Wan for their excellent technical help and productive discussions. This research work has been supported by ELKEM’s research fund.

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Correspondence to Elena Dal Martello.

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Manuscript submitted June 15, 2012.

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Dal Martello, E., Tranell, G., Ostrovski, O. et al. Trace Elements in the Si Furnace-Part II: Analysis of Condensate in Carbothermal Reduction of Quartz. Metall and Materi Trans B 44, 244–251 (2013) doi:10.1007/s11663-012-9720-9

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  • Volatility
  • Fluid Inclusion
  • Carbothermal Reduction
  • Gaseous Compound
  • Measured Volatility