A laboratory study investigated the technical feasibility of decomposing hydrous magnesium chlorides by using a steam pyrohydrolysis technique. This procedure consisted of injecting steam into the atmosphere of a decomposition furnace containing samples of hydrous magnesium chloride and then determining the rate of hydrolysis by measuring the rate of chloride evolution. The variables investigated were temperature, amount of water vapor in the decomposition atmosphere, and hydration stage of magnesium chloride. The application of steam was shown to accelerate both the rate and completeness of magnesium chloride decomposition reactions. For example, when magnesium chloride hexahydrate is exposed to a furnace temperature of 600 deg c in an air atmosphere for 20 minutes, the decomposition is 37 percent. Under identical conditions in a steam atmosphere, the decomposition is in excess of 70 percent. The magnesium oxide produced by the steam pyrohydrolysis of magnesium chloride dihydrate at 800 deg c contained 98 percent magnesium oxide. Based on magnesium oxide composition, this is equivalent to that of burned magnesite produced at temperatures in excess of 1,300 deg c. To demonstrate the quality of the product on a practical basis, metal reduction tests have shown it to be equivalent to reagent-grade magnesium oxide as a carbothermic reduction feed material.
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