Fire Assay Flux

FIRE ASSAY FLUX

We suppliy all the fluxes for the fire assay process. Furthermore, we can also pre-mix them according to the user’s recipe. Externalising the production of your fire assay flux not only saves time, but also reduces the handling of hazardous chemicals in the laboratory.

In addition to this, we can also supply each fire assay flux ingreditent individually. 

GENERAL CONCEPTS

flux converts compounds infusible at a certain temperature into others, which melt at lower temperatures.

In general terms, in order to fuse an acid subtance, it is necessary to employ a basic flux such as litharge or sodium carbonate.

On the other hand if we want to fuse a basic substance, we will use an acid flux such as silica or borax.

desulphurizing agent is a substance which has a strong affinity for sulphur and, which is therefore capable of separating it from some of its compounds.

Premixed Fire Assay Flux
Premixed Fire Assay Flux according to customer's own recipe

ASSAY GRADE LITHARGE

Litharge Silver Free, Gold Free
Litharge

ItemPbOFeCuBiAgZnSb
%99.8< 0.0015< 0.0010< 0.0250< 0.0020< 0.0010< 0.0010
Gold free Assay Grade Litharge

ItemPbOAuAg
Specification>99.3%<1 ppb< 0.5 ppm
Gold and Silver free Assay Grade Litharge

Assay grade Litharge (PbO) is the key ingredient of any fire assay flux. During the reductive fusion that takes place in the fire assay crucible, Litharge has the following functions: 

  • Collector: When Litharge reduces into lead, it rains downd under the form of droplets through the sample collecting all metals.
  • Fluxing agent
  • Desulphuriser: Prevents the formation of ‘Matte’ (by oxidation of sulphurs).
  • Solvent: Litharge acts as a solvent for metallic oxides.
  • Prevents formation of ‘Speiss‘ (by oxidation of antimony and arsenic).
  • Avoids reduction into lead button of those metals below lead in the redox potential series.
  • Combined with acid reagents PbO forms an efficient Solventf or acid and basic Oxide Compounds that are too viscous at furnace temperature.

Our litharge is under the form of 25 kg bags, and we have two grades available:

  • Assay litharge gold free
  • Assay litharge gold and silver free

SODIUM CARBONATE, ASSAY GRADE

Sodium Carbonate (Na2CO3)  or soda ash is a powerful basic assay flux. It also one of the cheapest available for assay purposes:

  • As it easily forms sulphates and sulphides, it helps desulphurizing the sample (helps preventing the apparition of Matte) .
  • Sodium Carbonate contributes to reduce the melting temperature of the mixture by forming eutectics.

It is better to use dense sodium carbonate because it absorbs very little atmospheric moisture. Dense sodium carbonate has therefore a longer shelf live.

Na2CO3AsNaClFe2O3HgPbNa2SO4
>99%<2ppm<0.25%35ppm<1ppm<2ppm<300ppm
Dense Anhydrous Sodium Carbonate

POTASSIUM CARBONATE, ASSAY GRADE

K2CO3Na2CO3KClFeMoistureHeavy metals (Pb)K2SO4Particle size > 270 mesh
>98.5%<1.2%0.01%3ppm<0.6%5ppm<0.01%30%
Anhydrous Potassium Carbonate

Potassium Carbonate (K2CO3) is also a basic assay flux very similar to sodium carbonate. It has however the disadvantage of being more expensive.

Adding small quantities of Potassium carbonate contributes to reduce the melting temperature of the mixture in the fire assay crucible. 

Indeed, a mixture of sodium and potassium carbonate melts at a lower temperature than either one alone. For this reason the mixture is used whenever it is desired to maintain a low temperature during the assay. The lead assay is an example and in fact is now about the only case in which it is still customary to use potassium carbonate in fire assaying.

ANHYDROUS BORAX, ASSAY GRADE

Borax (Na2B407)  is almost always present in all Fire Assay fluxes because it greatly reduces the fusing point of all slags, and it is also an excellent solvent for metallic oxides.

At red heat anhydrous borax becomes a strong acid and practically dissolves all metallic oxides and fluxes, both acid and basic.

The use of too much borax in the assay of siliceous ores there results a very tough, glassy or stony slag which holds tenaciously to the lead button. This is probably due partly to the effect of borax in reducing the coefficient of expansion of the slag and partly to its action in preventing crystallization. When separating the lead and slag, a film of lead will often adhere to the slag and give the assayer much trouble. The remedy for this condition is, first, to reduce the quantity of borax used and then, if necessary, to increase the bases.

B2O3 Equivalent Na2B4O7 Na2OH2OSO4FeParticle size
68.5-69.4%99.0-100.330.5-30.9%<1%<150ppm40ppm12-Mesh
Anhydrous Borax

POTASSIUM NITRATE, ASSAY GRADE

Commonly known as niter,  this fire assay flux is a powerful oxidizing agent.

It melts at 339ºC and fuses at a low temperature without alteration, but at a higher temperature it breaks up, giving off oxygen, which oxidizes sulphur and many of the metals, notably lead and copper.

It is used in the fire assay especially to oxidize sulphides, arsenides, antimonides, etc.

Many assayers object to its use because of the oxidizing effect on silver. Large amounts of potassium nitrate or sodium nitrate cause boiling of the crucible charge and necessitate careful heating to prevent loss. 

SODIUM NITRATE, ASSAY GRADE

Sodium nitrate behaviour is very similar to the one of potassium nitrate. However sodium nitrate is cheaper.

SILICA, ASSAY GRADE

SiO2Al2O3Fe2O3TiO2CaOMgONa2OK2OP2O5Moisture
98.5%<1%<0.06%0.02%0.3%0,1%0.1%0.3%0.1%<0.2%
Silica

Silica (SiO2) is the strongest available acid reagent. it combines with the metal oxides to form silicates which are the foundation of almost all slags. It is also very useful to protect the crucibles and scorifiers from the corrosive action of Litharge. However , the addition of too much silica will cause the loss of precious metals by the formation of slags or of Matte. Finally,  silica also helps reducing the melting point of the mixture because it forms eutectics.

FLUORSPAR / ASSAY CALCIUM FLUORIDE, ASSAY GRADE

 

Fluorspar (CaF2) is occasionally used as a flux in fire assaying. Its melting-point is 1378ºC and it would, therefore, seem to be of doubtful value in fire assay fusions which seldom exceed 1200ºC.

When melted it is very fluid and assists in fluidifying the charge, although it is inert and does not ordinarily enter into chemical combination with the other constituents of the charge.

It is particularly used when assaying bone ash.

CaF2SiO2CarbonatesBaSO4Moisture
>97%<1.1%<1.5%<0.5%<0.2%

ASSAY CREAM OF TARTAR

Cream of tartar is refined bitartrate of potassium. Being free from sulphur it is used as a reducing agent in the copper assay. Both argols and cream of tartar break up on heating as follows :
2KHC4H4O6 + heat = K2O + 5H2O + 6CO + 2C.
The K2O thus liberated is available as a flux.

Available purity is >99% and it is packed in bags of 25kg.