The Importance of Nanoparticles in the Mining Industry

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Advancement in nanoparticle technology has already created huge waves in major global industries. They’re helping the construction industry to create high performance, sustainable buildings.

They’re being used in aviation to improve aluminum to make aircraft stronger and lighter, as well as being used to explore composite materials for use in aircraft construction. Catalysts are also being improved with the use of nanoparticles to speed up reaction times. These are just a few industries where significant change is being brought about through the use of nanoparticles.

Mining is one industry where nanoparticles have yet to make an impact, however, that’s set to change. While the industry has advanced much in the last century, the work still poses risks to health, is a heavy energy consumer, and is linked with unethical processes. Fortunately, numerous technological advances are just around the corner for the industry, and nanoparticles are one of these key disruptors.

Nanoparticles have become an interesting subject to many industries because of the unique properties they have. The particles are smaller than their bulk material form, tiny, measuring between 100 and 2500 nanometers, but they are still larger than atoms. It’s their small size that gives them properties that differ from that which they have as bulk materials and its these properties which are being taken advantage of to drive innovation.

Change is waiting in the wings as the applications for nanoparticles in mining are mostly still in the development stage, and aren’t ready to be applied within the real world of mining yet. However, when they do leave the confines of the lab they are expected to make a significant impact on the mining industry, as they have changed and will change other global industries.

A New Way to Separate Gold, Silver and Copper

Scientists have been able to innovate a flotation processing method, which is a new way to separate gold, silver, copper and other metals from ore. The method involves crushing the minerals into tiny particles, which are then floated to separate the metals and rock. A collector is then introduced to collect the desired minerals. In the new process, nanoparticles with water-repelling properties have been used, and lab tests have recorded an almost 100% success rate with the method.

Recovery of Materials

It’s not uncommon for valuable minerals to end up in mining waste. There is already equipment available that can detect the presence of minerals in waste, which alerts workers to the need to recycle the waste to recover the minerals. A new method of mineral recovery has been developed with the help of nanoparticles. While still under development, the process will use nanosized vessels, such as nanoparticles) to recover the minerals interest from the waste.

Lubricant Additives

Heavy-duty machinery, such as that used in mining, relies on effective lubrication to function. Failure to properly lubricate can result in machinery breakdown and unscheduled maintenance and downtime and can cause expensive repairs. To tackle this problem, nanoparticles are being looked to once more. A multitude of nanoparticles are being investigated to discover which can successfully improve lubricating properties. Nanoparticles that are better at this job act as rollers, allowing the mechanical parts to move over them with ease. However, much testing is still required before we will see this application commercially available.

While most applications of nanoparticles in mining are still in their testing and development phases, they have a great potential to disrupt the industry, changing the methods which are currently relied on to create a more efficient and more profitable sector. In the future, we can expect more applications being developed as our knowledge of nanoparticles grows.

Sources and Further Reading

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Sarah Moore

Written by

Sarah Moore

After studying Psychology and then Neuroscience, Sarah quickly found her enjoyment for researching and writing research papers; turning to a passion to connect ideas with people through writing.

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