is the concentration (g/100 g of solution), and
is the concentration (g/100 g of solution) atsaturation. This difference in concentration may also be referenced to the solubility diagram and expressedas degrees (
C) of supersaturation.Nucleation is the birth of a new crystal within a supersaturated solution. Crystal growth is the layer-by-layer addition of solute to an existing crystal. Both of these phenomena are caused by supersaturation.Nucleation is a relatively rapid phenomenon that can occur in a matter of seconds. Growth is a layer-by-layer process on the surface of an existing crystal and takes considerably more time. The ratio of nucleation to growth controls the size distribution of the crystal product obtained. Generating a highlevel of supersaturation spontaneously leads to both nucleation and growth. The competition betweenthese two processes determines the character of the product produced.
62.1Methods of Creating Supersaturation
Supersaturation may be created by cooling a solution of normal solubility into the metastable zone.Typically, the amount of supersaturation that can be created in this way without causing spontaneousnucleation is in the range of 1 to 2
C. Evaporation of solvent at a constant temperature also producessupersaturation by reducing the amount of solvent available to hold the solute. The reaction of two ormore chemical species, which causes the formation of a less soluble species in the solvent, can also producesupersaturation. Finally, the addition of a miscible nonsolvent in which the solute is not soluble to asolvent will cause a decrease in the solubility of the solute in the solution. This technique is most oftenused in pharmaceutical operations involving the addition of alcohol or similar solvents to the primary solvent (water).
62.2Reasons for the Use of Crystallization
Crystallization is important as an industrial process because a large number of materials can be marketedin the form of crystals that have good handling properties. Typically, crystalline materials can be separatedfrom relatively impure solutions in a single processing step. In terms of energy requirements, the energy required for crystallization is typically much less than for separation by distillation or other means. Inaddition, crystallization can often be performed at relatively low temperatures on a scale that involvesquantities from a few pounds up to thousands of tons per day.
Equilibrium relations for crystallization systems are expressed in the form of solubility data, which areplotted as phase diagrams or solubility curves. The starting point in designing any crystallization processis knowledge of the solubility curve, which is ordinarily plotted in terms of mass units as a function of temperature. An example is given in Figure 62.1for the solubility of magnesium sulfate in water as a
function of temperature. At any concentration and temperature, the information on the diagram allowsone to predict the mixture of solids and solution that exists. Note that, in the case of magnesium sulfate,a number of different hydrates can exist in addition to the solution itself, or ice plus the solution. The linethat forms a boundary between the solution area and the various crystal hydrate areas is a solubility curve.Starting from point (1) at 50
C and cooling to 30
C at point (2) is a path that crosses the solubility line. During the cooling process, crossing the line in this manner indicates that the solution has becomesupersaturated for the concentration in question. If the supersaturation is within the metastable range— which is approximately 1
C — then growth can occur on existing crystals, but no substantial amountof nucleation will occur. If the cooling proceeds further, the system can become unstably supersaturated,and spontaneous nucleation takes place. If spontaneous nucleation takes place, very small crystals ornuclei form, and they will grow as long as the solution remains supersaturated.As growth takes place, the concentration drops in the direction of point (3), and, as it approaches thesolubility line, growth ceases because the driving force approaches zero. Organic and inorganic materials
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