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Physicochemical properties of nickel and cobalt sulphate solutions of hydrometallurgical relevance

Chen, Ting (2003) Physicochemical properties of nickel and cobalt sulphate solutions of hydrometallurgical relevance. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Producing nickel and cobalt metal by high pressure acid leaching (HPAL) of nickel laterites is becoming one of Australia's largest mineral processing industries. However, the background chemical information for this process, including the fundamental physicochemical properties of acidic metal sulphate leachate solutions, is not well known. In order to improve the efficiency of current and future HPAL plants, high quality physicochemical and thermodynamic data will be necessary. This thesis reports measurements on the densities and heat capacities of nickel and cobalt sulphate solutions and their mixtures along with detailed studies of the nature of the species present and the thermodynamics of their interconversions.

Densities and heat capacities of nickel and cobalt sulphate and perchlorate solutions and their ternary mixtures were measured using a vibrating tube densimeter and a flow microcalorimeter respectively. These data were used to calculate the apparent molal volumes and heat capacities of these solutions. Standard partial molal quantities were then obtained by appropriate extrapolation procedures, along with the volume and heat capacity changes of ion pair formation. A comparison has been made between experimental densities and heat capacities with those predicted by Young's rule. Good agreement was obtained except when the degree of complexation varied significantly in the mixtures. The various ion pair species in nickel and cobalt sulphate solutions, along with those of magnesium sulphate (which is a major impurity in HPAL leachates), were reinvestigated by dielectric relaxation spectroscopy.

Doubly solvent separated ion pairs, solvent shared ion pairs and contact ion pairs were shown to exist simultaneously in solution and their concentrations were determined from dilute to near-saturated concentrations. Evidence for the possible existence of a triple ion, M2SO4 2+, was also obtained in highly concentrated solutions. The equilibrium constants of the stepwise reactions and the effective hydration numbers of ions and ion pairs were also calculated.

The heats of complexation of nickel(II) and cobalt(II) sulphate were determined at different ionic strengths in sodium perchlorate media by titration calorimetry. These data were fitted to a specific ion interaction model to obtain the standard state values. The corresponding entropies of complexation were calculated and were found to be the major contributor to the stability of the complexes.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences
Supervisor(s): Hefter, Glenn
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