Selective removal of heavy metal ions from industrial wet-process phosphoric acid (WPA) was studied, using the two liquid membrane systems: Hybrid Liquid Membrane (HLM) and Aqueous Hybrid Liquid Membrane (AHLM). Monothiophosphinic acid (Cyanex 302) in kerosene (for the HLM) and Polyvinylsulfonic acid (PVSA) aqueous solution (for the AHLM) were used as a liquid membrane (LM), separated from the feed and strip streams by neutral or cation-exchange membranes.

On application of the HLM separation system, the permeation from the feed to the strip phase followed the selectivity sequence: Zn >> Cd > Cu with all types of membranes used. Results show that the selective separation of Cd and Zn from the WPA may be achieved by the HLM with cation-exchange membranes, using a single set-up installation at continuous processing. Copper is accumulated in the Cyanex 302, poisoning the carrier. So, this carrier and HCl as a strip solution can not be recommended for the HLM processing of WPA.

Using the AHLM separation system, heavy metals such as cadmium and copper, were successfully recovered from the WPA: average fluxes (in mol/m2sec) to the strip phase were 3.7 × 10-7 and 6.7 × 10-7. Satisfactory dynamic selectivity to copper (≈16) was found. The transfer of iron and zinc species to the strip phase was below detection levels during the 144 hrs of the AHLM experiment. Contamination of the feed and strip solutions by PVSA was not observed during the 500 hrs of processing. The membranes were completely regenerable and used repeatedly.

In comparison with the HLM and other liquid membrane systems, the AHLM can potentially provide many operational, economic and environmental advantages, some of them being higher transport rates, low carrier losses and low contamination of the feed and strip solutions by water-soluble polymers, long membrane lifetime, ambient temperature, low energy requirements and chemical consumption, no special requirements for membrane resistance in organic solvents, and fewer limitations on the variability of membrane pore sizes, etc.

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