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4156452

4156452

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Published by April Tejada

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Published by: April Tejada on Jun 18, 2012
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This is a preprint of a paper intended for publication in a journal or proceedings. Since changes may be made before publication, thispreprint should not be cited or reproduced without permission of theauthor. This document was prepared as an account of worksponsored by an agency of the United States Government. Neither the United States Government nor any agency thereof, or any of their employees, makes any warranty, expressed or implied, or assumes any legal liability or responsibility for any third party’s use,or the results of such use, of any information, apparatus, product or process disclosed in this report, or represents that its use by suchthird party would not infringe privately owned rights. The viewsexpressed in this paper are not necessarily those of the UnitedStates Government or the sponsoring agency.INL/CON-08-15151PREPRINT
Liquid-Liquid ExtractionEquipment
Introduction to Nuclear Chemistry andFuel Cycle Separations
J. D. LawT. A. ToddDecember 2008
 
Liquid-Liquid Extraction Equipment
J. D. Law and T. A. ToddIdaho National LaboratoryLiquid-liquid extraction (also called solvent extraction) was initially utilized in the petroleumindustry beginning in the 1930’s. It has since been utilized in numerous applications includingpetroleum, hydrometallurgical, pharmaceutical, and nuclear industries. Liquid-liquid extractiondescribes a method for separating components of a solution by utilizing an unequal distribution of the components between two immiscible liquid phases. In most cases, this process is carried outby intimately mixing the two immiscible phases, allowing for the selective transfer of solute(s)from one phase to the other, then allowing the two phases to separate. Typically, one phase willbe an aqueous solution, usually containing the components to be separated, and the other phasewill be an organic solvent, which has a high affinity for some specific components of the solution.The process is reversible by contacting the solvent loaded with solute(s) with another immisciblephase that has a higher affinity for the solute than the organic phase. The transfer of solute fromone phase into the solvent phase is referred to as extraction and the transfer of the solute fromthe solvent back to the second (aqueous) phase is referred to as back-extraction or stripping.The two immiscible fluids must be capable of rapidly separating after being mixed together, andthis is primarily a function of the difference in densities between the two phases.While limited mass transfer can be completed in a single, batch equilibrium contact of the twophases, one of the primary advantages of liquid-liquid extraction processes is the ability tooperate in a continuous, multistage countercurrent mode. This allows for very high separationfactors while operating at high processing rates. Countercurrent operation is achieved byrepeating single-stage contacts, with the aqueous and organic streams moving in oppositedirections as shown in Figure 1.Figure 1. Countercurrent – multistage extraction process flow diagram12
n
feedraffinatefreshsolvent
A
A
n
+1
A
n
A
3
A
2
A
1
O
n
-1
O
1
O
2
O
0
A
+1
O
-1
O
n
O
loadedsolvent
 
feedloadedsolventraffinatefreshsolventIn this flow diagram, the aqueous feed stream containing the solute(s) to be extracted enters atone end of the process (A
+1)
), and the fresh solvent (organic) stream enters at the other end(O
0
). The aqueous and organic steams flow countercurrently from stage to stage, and the finalproducts are the solvent loaded with the solute(s), O
,
leaving stage N and the aqueousraffinate, depleted in solute(s), leaving stage 1. In this manner, the concentration gradient in theprocess remains relatively constant. The organic at stage O
0
contains no solute(s), while theraffinate stream is depleted of solute(s). Streams A
n
and O
n
-1
contain intermediate concentrationsof the solute(s) and finally, streams A
+1
and O
contain the highest concentration of the solute(s).The concentration of the solutes in a countercurrent process are shown graphically in Figure 2,where the orange color shows the relative concentration of the solute(s) in the process.Figure 2. Countercurrent process concentration profilesFor the process to be economical, the solvent must be recycled. In order to recycle the solvent,the solute is subsequently stripped from the solvent, and the solvent is then recycled back to thecountercurrent extraction process. This allows the solvent to be recycled indefinitely, until it hasdegraded (due to acid hydrolysis or radiolytic degradation) or the solvent composition haschanged due to solubility in the aqueous phase.While countercurrent processes could be performed in laboratory glassware, their primaryadvantage is to enable continuous processing at high throughputs. In order to achievecontinuous processing, specific equipment is needed that can efficiently mix and separate the twophases continuously. In the nuclear industry, specific constraints, such as remote operation andmaintenance must be considered, since the solutions processed are highly radioactive. Thereare three basic typesof equipment used in industrial-scale nuclear solvent extraction processes:mixer-settlers, columns and centrifugal contactors. In selecting the type of equipment, a number of process parameters must be considered. These include:

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