IEEE Power & Energy Magazine - Spanish - November/December 2020 - 118

figura 6. Interior de las instalaciones de Smallman Street de Alcoa en Pitts-
burgh, Pennsylvania (circa 1888).

(a)

(b)

figura 7. Compañía Carborundum. a) Un horno listo para quemar y b) un
horno durante la quema. (Fuente: The Niagara Falls Electrical Handbook, 1904).
118	

ieee power & energy magazine 	

las Cataratas del Niágara. La Compañía Pittsburgh Reduction comenzó sus
operaciones en las Cataratas del Niágara en julio de 1895.
La figura 5 muestra un diagrama
simplificado de una celda de Hall, a
veces conocida como un horno debido
a la alta cantidad de energía calórica
requerida para fundir los componentes
químicos. Mediante este proceso, el
aluminio se refina a partir de la bauxita, un óxido hidratado impuro del aluminio. La bauxita es un buen aislante
y difícil de fundir. Esta dificultad fue
superada por la primera fusión de la
criolita, que tiene un punto de fusión
más bajo que la bauxita. La bauxita
purificada (alúmina) es fácilmente soluble en criolita fundida y se disocia,
produciendo iones de aluminio. La valencia del aluminio es +3, así que cuando se disocian en solución, sus cargas
positivas parecen ganar tres electrones
para convertirse en aluminio. La ganancia de electrones se conoce como
reducción. Estos electrones provienen
del cátodo, el cual, a su vez, obtiene sus
electrones de la central eléctrica. Los
iones de oxígeno negativos se unen al
carbono del ánodo y se produce monóxido de carbono (CO).
Para iniciar el proceso, se añadió
criolita y los electrodos (ánodos) se
bajaron hasta que tocaron el cátodo. Se
aplicó entonces potencia eléctrica en
forma de CC, y la corriente resultante
derritió la criolita. Después de que una
cantidad suficiente de criolita se derritiera, se añadió la alúmina y comenzó
el proceso de reducción. La tensión
de funcionamiento normal de la celda
era típicamente de 8 V, y la corriente
era de 1,800 A. La tensión fue monitoreada en voltímetros posicionados
de manera que fueran visibles para el
asistente, como se muestra en la figura
6. A medida que el proceso avanzaba
y la tensión disminuía, se añadía más
criolita a mano. El aluminio refinado
fue recogido en el cátodo. El proceso se
aprovechó a intervalos adecuados, y el
aluminio fundido se fundió en lingotes.
La central fue suministrada con una
corriente alterna de 500 A a 2,500 V,
bifásica. Esto se transformó en el sitio
noviembre/diciembre 2020



IEEE Power & Energy Magazine - Spanish - November/December 2020

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IEEE Power & Energy Magazine - Spanish - November/December 2020 - Cover3
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