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Electrochemistry regenerates H2SO4 and recovers iron from industrial wastes

By Gerald Parkinson |

An electrochemical process for recovering sulfuric acid and metallic iron from iron-rich sulfate wastes, such as spent pickling liquors and pregnant leach solutions generated in minerals and metals processing, has been patented by François Cardarelli, an independent researcher located in Montreal, Canada (www.francoiscardarelli.ca). Cardarelli says the process offers a green solution to the processing of these wastes, most of which currently end up in landfills or disposal piles. In Cardarelli’s process, an iron-rich sulfate solution is pH-adjusted to below 3.0 by adding a neutralizing agent, such as sodium hydroxide, and fed to the cathode side of an electrolytic cell (diagram). The adjustment is necessary to avoid the evolution of hydrogen at the cathode, a competing process, says Cardarelli. Iron deposits on the titanium cathode (a material chosen to prevent H2 evolution), while sulfate anions migrate through an ion-exchange membrane to the anode. Initially there is a 10% solution of H2SO4 on the anode side. Acid removal starts when the H2SO4concentration reaches about 30%. Oxygen evolves from the iridium dioxide-coated Ti anode. Cardarelli has tested the process, using 1-ft2 electrodes, and is negotiating with potential…
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