Stepwise extraction of Fe, Al, Ca, and Zn: A green route to recycle raw electroplating sludge

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College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science


Electroplating sludge is a hazardous waste produced in large quantities in the electroplating industry during production. It is rich in heavy metal resources and can be recovered as value-added heavy metal products. To recover Zn in electroplating sludge, Fe/Al/Ca impurities were effectively removed as hematite, boehmite, and calcium sulfate, respectively, via a facile hydrothermal method with reduction of nitric acid by addition of glucose. After the sludge was dissolved in nitric acid, the generated solution contained 6.1 g/L of Zn, 2.2 g/L of Fe, 2.5 g/L of Al, and 2.9 g/L of Ca. First, approximately 100% Fe was extracted as hematite nanoparticles containing 94.6 wt% Fe2O3 after the solution was treated at 190 °C for 6 h. Second, when the temperature was elevated to 270 °C, nearly 99% Al was isolated as boehmite particles containing 95.2 wt% Al2O3. Third, more than 98% Ca was removed as anhydrite, which contained 95.9 wt% CaSO4, by adding sulfuric acid. During the steps, the total loss of Zn was less than 3%, and 5.75 g/L of residual Zn was recovered as zincite containing 92.2 wt% ZnO by adjusting the pH to 8. The dissolved Fe, Al, and Ca impurities were successfully removed as purified hematite, boehmite, and anhydrite, respectively, through the stepwise separation method by adjusting reaction temperatures and pH. The high content of Zn in the electroplating sludge was finally purified as zincite.

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Journal of Environmental Management