Molten salt is salt which is solid at standard temperature and pressure but enters the liquid phase due to elevated temperature. A salt that is normally liquid even at standard temperature and pressure is usually called a room temperature ionic liquid, although technically molten salts are a class of ionic liquids.
Molten salts have a variety of uses. Molten chloride salt mixtures are commonly used as baths for various alloy heat treatments, such as annealing and martempering of steel. Cyanide and chloride salt mixtures are used for surface modification of alloys such as carburizing and nitrocarburizing of steel. Cryolite (a fluoride salt) is used as a solvent for aluminium oxide in the production of aluminium in the Hall-Héroult process. Fluoride, chloride, and hydroxide salts can be used as solvents in pyroprocessing of nuclear fuel. Molten salts (fluoride, chloride, and nitrate) can also be used as heat transfer fluids as well as for thermal storage. This thermal storage is commonly used in molten salt power plants.
A commonly used thermal salt is the eutectic mixture of 60% sodium nitrate and 40% potassium nitrate, which can be used as liquid between 260-550 °C. It has a heat of fusion of 161 J/g, and a heat capacity of 1.53 J/(g K).
Experimental salts using lithium may have a melting point of 116 °C while still having a heat capacity of 1.54 J/(g K). Salts may cost $1,000 per ton, and a typical plant may use 30,000 tons of salt.
Ambient temperature molten saltsEdit
Ambient temperature molten salts (also known as ionic liquids) are present in the liquid phase at standard conditions for temperature and pressure. Examples of such salts include N-ethylpyridinium bromide and aluminium chloride mix, discovered in 1951 and ethylammonium nitrate discovered by Paul Walden. Other ionic liquids take advantage of asymmetrical quaternary ammonium cations like alkylated imidazolium ions, and large, branched anions like the bistriflimide ion.
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