The process of electrowinning also referred to as electroextraction is used for purification of non-ferrous metals. When impurities are removed elecrorefining can be a result. This happens by making use of electroplating to produce situ metallic coatings. Metals that form as a result of these processes are referred to as electronwon.
Electrowinning is an electrolytic process which means the process’ principals are based on electrolysis. The electrolytic process starts when electrolytes are dissolved in a polar solvent and then are introduced to a current resulting in cations moving towards the cathode and anions moving towards the anode. In electrowinning this principle is utilised by including dissolved metals within the electrolyte solution. This results in the recovery of dissolved metals by means of electroplating onto the cathode.
The most common electrowon metals are: lead, gold, copper, zinc, silver, chromium, aluminium, manganese, cobalt etc. Electrowinning plays an important role in modern metal recovery. The process is mainly used for mining, refining and water waste treatment projects.
Benefits associated with the electrowinning process are: reduced waste, reduced water usage, better process control, environmental permit compliance, profit from metal recovery and use of recognized technology.