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Calcareous electrochemical precipitation, a new method to trap nickel in seawater

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There are few efficient, rapid and cheap methods to remove toxic metals from contaminated waters. Here we hypothesised that cathodic protection, an existing method used to control the corrosion of metallic structures, may trap toxic metals. Indeed, in seawater, the application of a cathodic current on a metallic structure induces the precipitation of limestone (CaCO3) and magnesium dihydroxyde (Mg(OH)2), thus forming a calcareous deposit on the metal surface. We therefore presumed that such calcareous deposit may trap metals dissolved in waters. Actually calcareous deposit formation has never been studied in the presence of dissolved metallic contaminants such as nickel. Here we tested ionic nickel (Ni2+) precipitation in calcareous deposit with a galvanized steel electrode by spiking artificial seawater with a NiCl2 salt during 7 days of applied current. We analysed deposit surface and cross section by µ-Raman spectroscopy and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) with X-ray microanalysis. Ni concentration in the deposit was quantified by inductively coupled plasma analysis, after deposit dissolution in 60% HNO3. Results show that in 7 days up to 24% of nickel can be trapped in the calcareous deposit. Scanning electron microscopy reveals that Ni is trapped under a pure CaCO3 layer of aragonite. Raman spectra show that nickel is incorporated as nickel dihydroxyde (Ni(OH)2), as evidence by vibration bands at 446 and 510 cm−1. Overall our findings disclose a new and efficient method, calcareous electrochemical precipitation, which has potential applications to remove toxic metals from contaminated waters.

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This research was supported by the French National Research Agency (ANR-EcoCorail program: MATETPRO project).

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Correspondence to Charlotte Carré.

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Carré, C., Gunkel-Grillon, P., Serres, A. et al. Calcareous electrochemical precipitation, a new method to trap nickel in seawater. Environ Chem Lett 15, 151–156 (2017).

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