Lead protects and provides a measure of safety in one way or another. Everyone is familiar with the lead aprons used to block x-rays. Protective goggles with lead coating work in a similar way. In construction, lead is used in restoration work to protect roofs and facades. Qualities like good formability and the natural patina it forms, which serves as a type of corrosion protection, qualify the metal for these uses.
LEAD CAUSES THE SPARKS TO FLY
Because of its high density, lead is relatively heavy and is therefore ideal for protecting underwater cables. Thanks to its low melting point, it is often alloyed with tin for soldering technology. Like copper, lead can be almost completely recycled as often as desired without a loss of quality.
By far the most important application for metallic lead is the lead battery, however. About 80 % of the metal’s output flows into this area. Compared to other battery technologies, lead batteries are considered very robust and can conduct relatively high voltages. The latter is vital for starter batteries in vehicles.
A RELIABLE WAY TO STORE ENERGY
Global lead consumption rose from 7.3 million t to 11.5 million t between 2004 and 2017. Studies forecast stable demand for the coming years. A key reason for this is that many conventional cars will still be on the roads of tomorrow and will need the reliable technology of lead batteries.
Moreover, the lead battery is set to play an important role in the development of future energy storage solutions for the renewable energies sector, in particular for the photovoltaic industry.
LEAD AS THE IDEAL “METAL COLLECTOR”
We service this demand at Aurubis by producing high-purity lead, which is 99.985 % pure and is refined from what is referred to as crude lead. We have been audited by the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA) for both lead and gold. Aurubis sold a total of 19,527 t of lead in fiscal year 2017/18.
Lead is not only produced at Aurubis for its own sake. Just like copper, lead is an ideal “metal collector.” In the smelting process, it binds different elements, such as bismuth, antimony, tellurium, silver, and tin, that we can ultimately recover as additional intermediate products. Lead is therefore useful to us on many levels.