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Ion exchange

Ion exchange column, used for protein purication

alized porous or gel polymer), zeolites, montmorillonite,

clay, and soil humus. Ion exchangers are either cation exchangers that exchange positively charged ions (cations)
or anion exchangers that exchange negatively charged
ions (anions). There are also amphoteric exchangers
that are able to exchange both cations and anions simultaneously. However, the simultaneous exchange of cations
and anions can be more eciently performed in mixed
beds that contain a mixture of anion and cation exchange
resins, or passing the treated solution through several different ion exchange materials.
Ion exchangers can be unselective or have binding preferences for certain ions or classes of ions, depending on
their chemical structure. This can be dependent on the
size of the ions, their charge, or their structure. Typical
examples of ions that can bind to ion exchangers are:
H+ (proton) and OH (hydroxide)

Ion exchanger

Single-charged monatomic ions like Na+ , K+ , and

Double-charged monatomic ions like Ca2+ and
Polyatomic inorganic ions like SO4 2 and PO4 3
Organic bases, usually molecules containing the
amine functional group -NR2 H+
Organic acids, often molecules containing -COO
(carboxylic acid) functional groups
Ion exchange resin beads

Biomolecules that can be ionized: amino acids,

peptides, proteins, etc.

Ion exchange is an exchange of ions between two

electrolytes or between an electrolyte solution and a
complex. In most cases the term is used to denote the
processes of purication, separation, and decontamination of aqueous and other ion-containing solutions with
solid polymeric or mineralic 'ion exchangers.

Along with absorption and adsorption, ion exchange is a

form of sorption.

Ion exchange is a reversible process and the ion exchanger

can be regenerated or loaded with desirable ions by washTypical ion exchangers are ion exchange resins (function- ing with an excess of these ions.



Ion exchange is widely used in the food & beverage,

hydrometallurgy, metals nishing, chemical & petrochemical, pharmaceutical, sugar & sweeteners, ground
& potable water, nuclear, softening & industrial water,
semiconductor, power, and a host of other industries.

Ion exchange resins in the form of thin membranes are

used in chloralkali process, fuel cells and vanadium redox

Most typical example of application is preparation of

high purity water for power engineering, electronic and
nuclear industries; i.e. polymeric or mineralic insoluble
ion exchangers are widely used for water softening,
water purication, water decontamination, etc.
Ion exchange is a method widely used in household
(laundry detergents and water lters) to produce soft water. This is accomplished by exchanging calcium Ca2+
and magnesium Mg2+ cations against Na+ or H+ cations
(see water softening). Another application for ion ex- Large cation/anion ion exchangers used in water purication of
change in domestic water treatment is the removal of boiler feedwater.[1]
nitrate and natural organic matter.
Industrial and analytical ion exchange chromatography is
another area to be mentioned. Ion exchange chromatography is a chromatographical method that is widely used
for chemical analysis and separation of ions. For example, in biochemistry it is widely used to separate charged
molecules such as proteins. An important area of the
application is extraction and purication of biologically
produced substances such as proteins (amino acids) and

Ion exchange can also be used to remove hardness

from water by exchanging calcium and magnesium ions
for sodium ions in an ion exchange column. Liquid (aqueous) phase ion exchange desalination has been
demonstrated.[2] In this technique anions and cations in
salt water are exchanged for carbonate anions and calcium cations respectively using electrophoresis. Calcium
and carbonate ions then react to form calcium carbonate,
which then precipitates leaving behind fresh water. The
desalination occurs at ambient temperature and pressure
and requires no membranes or solid ion exchangers. Theoretical energy eciency of this method is on par with
electrodialysis and reverse osmosis.

Ion-exchange processes are used to separate and purify

metals, including separating uranium from plutonium
and other actinides, including thorium, and lanthanum,
neodymium, ytterbium, samarium, lutetium, from each
other and the other lanthanides. There are two series of
rare earth metals, the lanthanides and the actinides, both
of whose families all have very similar chemical and phys- 1.1 Other applications
ical properties. Using methods developed by Frank Sped In soil science, cation exchange capacity is the ion
ding in the 1940s, ion-exchange used to be the only pracexchange capacity of soil for positively charged ions.
tical way to separate them in large quantities, until the
Soils can be considered as natural weak cation exadvent of solvent extraction techniques that can be scaled
up enormously.
A very important case is the PUREX process (plutoniumuranium extraction process), which is used to separate
the plutonium and the uranium from the spent fuel products from a nuclear reactor, and to be able to dispose of
the waste products. Then, the plutonium and uranium
are available for making nuclear-energy materials, such
as new reactor fuel and nuclear weapons.
The ion-exchange process is also used to separate other
sets of very similar chemical elements, such as zirconium
and hafnium, which is also very important for the nuclear
industry. Zirconium is practically transparent to free neutrons, used in building reactors, but hafnium is a very
strong absorber of neutrons, used in reactor control rods.
Ion exchangers are used in nuclear reprocessing and the
treatment of radioactive waste.

In pollution remediation and geotechnical engineering, ion exchange capacity determines the swelling
capacity of swelling or Expansive clay such as
Montmorillonite, which can be used to capture
pollutants and charged ions.
In planar waveguide manufacturing, ion exchange is
used to create the guiding layer of higher index of
Dealkalization, removal of alkali ions from a glass
Chemically strengthened glass, produced by exchanging K+ for Na+ in soda glass surfaces using
KNO3 melts.

Regeneration wastewater

Most ion exchange systems are containers of ion exchange resin operated on a cyclic basis. Water ows
through the resin container until the resin is considered
exhausted when water leaving the exchanger contains
more than the desired maximum concentration of the ions
being removed. Resin is then regenerated by sequentially
backwashing the resin bed to remove accumulated solids,
ushing removed ions from the resin with a concentrated
solution of replacement ions, and rinsing the ushing solution from the resin. Production of backwash, ushing, and rinsing wastewater during regeneration of ion
exchange media limits the usefulness of ion exchange for
wastewater treatment.[3]
Water softeners are regenerated with brine containing
ten percent sodium chloride.[4] Aside from the soluble
chloride salts of divalent cations removed from the softened water, softener regeneration wastewater contains the
unused fty to seventy percent of the sodium chloride
regeneration ushing brine required to reverse ion exchange resin equilibria. Deionizing resin regeneration
with sulfuric acid and sodium hydroxide is approximately
twenty to forty percent ecient. Neutralized deionizer
regeneration wastewater contains all of the removed ions
plus 2.5 to ve times their equivalent concentration as
sodium sulfate.[5]

Betz Laboratories (1976). Handbook of Industrial

Water Conditioning (7th Edition). Betz Laboratories.
Ion Exchangers (K. Dorfner, ed.), Walter de
Gruyter, Berlin, 1991.
C. E. Harland, Ion exchange: Theory and Practice,
The Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, 1994.
Friedrich G. Helerich (1962). Ion Exchange.
Courier Dover Publications. ISBN 978-0-48668784-1.
Kemmer, Frank N. (1979). The NALCO Water
Handbook. McGraw-Hill.
Ion exchange (D. Muraviev, V. Gorshkov, A. Warshawsky), M. Dekker, New York, 2000.
A. A. Zagorodni, Ion Exchange Materials: Properties and Applications, Elsevier, Amsterdam, 2006.

5 External links
Illustrated and well dened chemistry lab practical
on ion exchange from Dartmouth College
Some applets illustrating ion exchange processes
A simple explanation of deionization

See also
Ion chromatography
Alkali anion exchange membrane
Ion-exchange resin
Ion exchange membranes


[1] Mischissin, Stephen G. (7 February 2012). University

of Rochester - Investigation of Steam Turbine Extraction
Line Failures (PDF). Arlington, VA. pp. 2526. Retrieved 23 February 2015.
[2] Shkolnikov, Viktor; Bahga, Supreet S.; Santiago, Juan G.
(August 28, 2012). Desalination and hydrogen, chlorine,
and sodium hydroxide production via electrophoretic ion
exchange and precipitation (PDF) 14 (32). Phys. Chem.
Chem Phys.
[3] Kemmer, pp.12-7&12-25
[4] Betz, p.59
[5] Kemmer, p.12-8

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