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Influence of the electrolyte on the electrode reactions in the chlorate process

by Nylén, Linda

Abstract (Summary)
The chlorate process is very energy intensive and a major part of the production costs are for electrical energy. Since the electricity prices are constantly increasing and may also vary periodically, the chlorate plants may be forced to adjust their production rate to the price at each moment in order to minimise their costs. Variation of current load requires increased knowledge regarding the electrode behaviour in a wide current range. In this thesis, the aim was to study the impact of the electrolyte on the electrode reactions in order to reduce the energy consumption. The work has mainly been experimental and additionally mathematical modelling has been carried out. A wide current range has been investigated in order to increase the understanding of the phenomena and to obtain results useful for low-load operation during the periods of high electricity cost.To operate the anode as energy efficiently as possible, the anode potential should not exceed the critical potential (Ecr), where the slope of the anodic polarisation curve increases, most likely due to ruthenium(VIII)-formation, and where the side reaction of oxygen evolution increases. In this work, the influence of different electrolyte parameters on Ecr has been studied. It was shown that a higher chloride concentration and an increased temperature lowered Ecr, which was expected to increase the risk of exceeding Ecr. However, this was not observed due to a simultaneous favouring of the chloride oxidation. Hence it was concluded that the electrolyte parameters should be optimised so that the lowest possible anode potential is obtained, which would enable higher current densities without exceeding Ecr. A further conclusion is that the increased slope of the polarisation curve at Ecr was possibly related to the lower activity for chloride oxidation on ruthenium oxidised to ruthenium(VIII).At full-load operation, the cathode potential was shown to be rather independent of the electrolyte composition despite a large variation of electrolyte parameters. The cathode composition appears to be more critical than the electrolyte composition when aiming at reducing the energy consumption. A strategy to increase the cathode activity could be to in situ apply a catalytic film onto the electrode surface. Therefore, Y(III) was added to a chloride electrolyte in order to form a yttrium hydroxide film on the alkaline cathode surface during hydrogen evolution. The yttrium-hydroxide film activated reduction of water (hydrogen evolution) and hindered hypochlorite reduction, proton reduction and nitrate reduction. The inhibiting properties are important for the prevention of side reactions, which currently are avoided by reducing Cr(VI) of the electrolyte on the cathode, producing an inhibiting chromium-hydroxide film. The studies on Y(III) increase the expectations for finding alternatives to the toxic Cr(VI).The addition of chromate to the chlorate electrolyte gives a high cathodic current efficiency and chromate has buffering properties in the electrolyte. The role of the buffer has been investigated for the oxygen evolution from water (one possible anodic side reaction), as well as cathodic hydrogen evolution. Models have been developed for these systems to increase the understanding of the interaction between buffer, electrode reactions and mass transport; the results have been verified experimentally. The chromate buffer increased the limiting current significantly for the cathodic H+ reduction and the cathodic overpotential was reduced drastically at currents lower than the limited current. A too low overpotential could result in the cathodic protection being lost. The presence of chromate buffer increased the limiting current for the oxygen evolution from OH-. The modelling of these systems revealed that the homogeneous reactions connected to the electrode reactions were not in equilibrium at the electrode surface. Further, a good resolution of the interface at the electrode surface was crucial since the, for the electrode reactions, important buffering takes place in an nm-thick reaction layer.
Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:

School:Kungliga Tekniska högskolan

School Location:Sweden

Source Type:Doctoral Dissertation

Keywords:NATURAL SCIENCES; Chemistry; Analytical chemistry; Electrochemistry; Chlorate; chloride oxidation; critical anode potential; chromate; DSA; hydrogen evolution; iron; mass transport; oxygen evolution; REM; RDE; steel

ISBN:978-91-7178-918-1

Date of Publication:01/01/2008

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