What Happens inside a retort?

The Pidgeon process is a batch process in which finely powdered calcined dolomite and ferrosilicon are mixed, briquetted, and charged in retorts made of nickel-chrome-steel alloy. The reaction is carried out at 12000C under very low pressure, close to vacuum. Under these conditions the magnesium is produced as a vapor which is condensed by cooling to about 4000C in steel-lined condensers, and then removed and cast into ingots. [FeSi (s) + MgO(s) → Fe(s) + SiO2(s) + Mg(g)] The forward reaction is endothermic and the position of equilibrium is in favor of magnesium oxide. However, by removing the magnesium vapor as it is produced, the reaction goes to completion. Due to distillation, the process gives magnesium with up to 99.9% purity, slightly higher than from the electrolytic processes.

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