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Capillary electrophoresis for determination of inorganic anions and metal cations in industrial waste materials
Goal: Development of analytical electrophoretic methods for determination of inorganic anions and metal cations in acid tar, black nickel mud and red mud. The resulting methods are to be used in the development of novel approaches for elimination of old environmental waste.
Novelty: The complexity of the sample matrices to be considered in this application represents a great analytical challenge.
Broader impacts: Results of visiting students’ work will contribute to a visionary project aiming at the elimination of two environmental burdens at the same time. If successful, this project can help in remediation of acid tar ponds that are a great concern in many countries around the world.
Background: Waste acid tar ponds represent a significant environmental burden for many countries around the world. They result from oil processing technologies associated with the use of concentrated sulfuric acid or oleum. The acid tar waste was usually placed in simple pits dug in the ground without any other treatment. From these pits, the toxic waste continuously contaminates soil and represents a potential danger for the groundwater system. During long-term storage, the composition of acid tars becomes exceedingly complex due to a variety of ongoing chemical reactions. Because of physico-chemical properties and complexity of the material, disposal of acid tar has not been satisfactorily addressed yet. Several approaches have been tested and published. The strategies involve immobilization, stabilization and solidification of acid tars and their deposition at hazardous waste landfills or their use as binders. Other approaches employ thermal cracking whose products can be used as liquid fuel or asphalt materials. Another possibility is combustion. We will develop a process for catalytic degradation of acid tars employing other industrial waste materials – black nickel mud and red mud – as catalysts. During the development and application of the process, it will be very important to monitor the composition of input and output materials. The aim of this project is to develop and validate the analytical methods for determination of inorganic anions and metal cations present in the industrial waste materials.
Methods: In the first year of the project, the visiting student will use capillary electrophoresis with UV absorption or contactless conductivity detection to develop a method for separation of inorganic anions contained in acid tars. In the following years, other students will continue with development of methods for determination of metal cations in black nickel and red muds. Although methods for electrophoretic determination of the above mentioned ions have been published and our laboratory has experience with them, complex and practically unknown sample matrices represent a technically significant yet exciting challenge. Apart from development of the separation method, the student will have to deal with the problems of sampling, homogenization and extraction of analytes from the waste material. The student will benefit from our groups’ expertise in the field of capillary electrophoresis and its applications, including work with online sample pre-concentration techniques and complex matrices such as plating baths or biological samples.