Optimisation of zeolite LTA synthesis from alum sludge and the influence of the sludge source

Graeme J. Millar , Alexandra Rozhkovskaya , Jay Rajapakse


Received December 09, 2019,Revised , Accepted June 14, 2020, Available online July 02, 2020

Volume 33,2021,Pages 130-142

Generation of alum sludge (AS) at drinking water treatment plants represents an environmental liability and adds to the cost of water purification. Consequently, this study explored the feasibility of using low and high carbon containing alum sludge from two water treatment plants to synthesize zeolite LTA. The hypothesis was that zeolite LTA synthesis was dependant upon alum sludge source and that a range of strategies may be required to optimize zeolite crystallinity. Zeolite characteristics such as morphology, phase composition, crystallinity, and particle size distribution were recorded. “One pot” hydrothermal synthesis of precursor gel with molar composition 4.2Na2O:Al2O3:1.2SiO2:168H2O at 80°C for 3 hr resulted in 25 and 46 wt.% zeolite LTA from high and low carbonaceous sludge, respectively. Prior to hydrothermal reaction stage it was discovered that ageing of the gel, addition of zeolite LTA seeds, ultrasonic treatment and calcination all promoted zeolite LTA formation. Calcination of the alum sludge at 700°C for 2 hr before hydrothermal synthesis resulted in particle size reduction and the highest amount of crystalline zeolite LTA: 79 wt.% from low carbon sludge and 65 wt.% from high carbon sludge. Notably, the zeolite crystallinity reported in this study was the higher than previous studies on this topic. The outlined approach may allow value adding of alum waste and produce a commodity which could be used locally by the water treatment plant as a water softener.

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