Tantalum people take the hats off

Heavy metal lives deep in the soul of Alexei Rylsky, operator of the 6th category, Shop 10 of the Tantalum Operations. First, he has been working with tantalum all his life, an element that is among the ten heaviest metals in the world in terms of density. Well, and secondly, he loves hard rock. From our hero, we learned how to make sodium-thermal powder from the original concentrate using a complex technological process, and what such powder is used for in the future.

Alexey Fedorovich is a professional with 37 years of experience. He came to the plant in the footsteps of his father, who taught him the difficult work with tantalum concentrates. First, he worked as a wire drawer (specialist in metal forming), and then as an operator of sodium-thermal powders (STP), where our hero still works.

He left his profession only once – in the crisis years of the 2000s, but four months later he returned to his plant for his own specialty. For the last 14 years Aleksey Fedorovich has hold the position of STP section foreman.

– A metallurgist should have a special position in life, because the work is very responsible. Metallurgy requires strict adherence to processes, extensive knowledge and soul. Just come and go – it will not work here. Our work is hard, and when you stand at the recovery box, where the process takes place at a temperature of 800-11000C, the expression «Seven sweats will come down» ceases to be figurative, – Alexey Rylsky shares his thoughts. – But you will work with your soul – and calmly go home.

At the site of sodium-thermal powders, a semi-finished product is obtained for further production of the purest capacitor powders and tantalum ingots.

The process goes on for two days, after which 125 kg of sodium-thermal powder in special containers, which the dancers call «lunar rovers», is sent for tableting and subsequent operations for the manufacture of the final product.

It all starts with blending. The feedstock – potassium fluorotantalate layer-by-layer with sodium is placed in a crucible (heating tank), there are 11 such layers. Salt is on top so that the reduction process with a large release of heat takes place without access to oxygen. After that, the hot crucible is cooled during the day, it weighs 500 kg. Then the resulting 1.5-meter restored mass must be moved to the knockout, and there it is necessary that all its parts pass through the grate.

– When the mass flies out of the crucible, it is loose, but on top of 30 centimeters a so-called «hat» is formed, it is steeper than concrete, and it must be crushed with a sledgehammer. That's why we say hats off! – says Alexey Rylsky.

The crushed mass through the screw gradually enters the damper, where water is poured up to certain parameters. Everything that was placed is mixed and precipitated, water is removed from the container due to vacuum, and grinding begins. With the help of grinding balls, the mass is crushed. After the mass has become more homogeneous, the process of a three-stage washing, or purification, begins with an acid that dissolves harmful impurities.

– This is how we prepare the mass for filtration. Due to the vacuum through the grid and the «shirts» on the Nutsch filters, the solution leaves through a special fabric, leaving the powder. We do this before drying. And only then we distribute the powder on baking sheets and put it to the drying cabinet. Here, too, there are technological features: the temperature is 1100C, no more. After 3-4 hours, you need to mix it, with such rakes as in the garden, – Alexey Fedorovich introduces the technology further. – The last stage is a sieve, the particles should be less than a millimeter.

On this, the participation of our operator in the process ends. But Aleksey Fedorovich, who worked on almost all the technological operations of his department, shows what happens to the powder after it is loaded into the «moon rovers». Pelletizing takes place in special mixers, then the ingot is melted from the pellets, from which, using a certain technology, high-purity export capacitor powder and other finished products are obtained.

So sincerely and with special poetry, describing a serious technological process, he talks about the «hat», «moon rovers», «shirt», «garden» and «rake», so that it is clear.

The track record of our hero includes numerous thanks for his work – responsible and honest. And in 2021, by decree of the President of our Republic, Alexey Rylsky was awarded the jubilee medal «30 years of development of the Republic of Kazakhstan».

– Our Alexei Fedorovich is a very responsive and competent specialist, for many years he has been a mentor and an example for young workers who come to work on this site. On my own behalf, I would like to wish Alexei Fedorovich good health and bring up more than one generation of good specialists, – Dmitry Bobylev, head of department No. 3 of workshop No. 10 of tantalum production, sums up our conversation.

Love for heavy metal is reflected in the daily life of our hero. He is an experienced music lover, his passion for hard rock and heavy metal is constant. Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin are his favorites. But the most important joy of Alexei Fedorovich is his granddaughters: 10-year-old Sofa and 4-year-old Anfisa. The happy grandfather just blossoms talking about them. And, of course, teaches good music – his favorite. And little Sophia is already listening to rock at full volume, to the delight of her grandfather.

By Anna Chumina