Date: 15 Apr 2014

On the real performance of cation exchange resins in wastewater treatment under conditions of cation competition: the case of heavy metal pollution

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Sorption performance of cation-exchange resins Amberlite® IRN77 and Amberlite™ IRN9652 toward Cs(I) and Sr(II) has been tested in single-component aqueous solutions and simulated waste effluents containing other monovalent (Effluent 1) or divalent (Effluent 2) metal cations, as well as nitrate, borate, or carbonate anions. The individual sorption isotherms of each main component were measured by the solution depletion method. The differential molar enthalpy changes accompanying the ion-exchange between Cs+ or Sr2+ ions and protons at the resin surface from single-component nitrate solutions were measured by isothermal titration calorimetry and they showed a higher specificity of the two resins toward cesium. Compared to the retention limits of both resins under such idealized conditions, an important depression in the maximum adsorption capacity toward each main component was observed in multication systems. The overall effect of ion exchange process appeared to be an unpredictable outcome of the individual sorption capacities of the two resins toward various cations as a function of the cation charge, size, and concentration. The cesium retention capacity of the resins was diminished to about 25 % of the “ideal” value in Effluent 1 and 50 % in Effluent 2; a further decrease to about 15 % was observed upon concomitant strontium addition. The uptake of strontium by the resins was found to be less sensitive to the addition of other metal components: the greatest decrease in the amount adsorbed was 60 % of the ideal value in the two effluents for Amberlite® IRN77 and 75 % for Amberlite™ IRN9652. It was therefore demonstrated that any performance tests carried out under idealized conditions should be exploited with much caution to predict the real performance of cation exchange resins under conditions of cation competition.

Responsible editor: Angeles Blanco