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Hydrolyzing Metal Salts As Coagulants

John Gregory, Jinming Duan

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Aluminium and ferric salts are widely used as coagulants in water and wastewater treatment. They are effective in removing a broad range of impurities from water, including colloidal particles and dissolved organic substances. Their mode of action is broadly understood in terms of essentially two mechanisms: charge neutralization of negatively charged colloids by cationic hydrolysis products and incorporation of impurities in an amorphous precipitate of metal hydroxide. The relative importance of these two mechanisms depends on many factors, especially pH and coagulant dosage. Alternative coagulants based on prehydrolyzed forms of aluminium or iron can be more effective than the traditional materials in many cases, but their mode of action is not completely understood, especially with regard to the role of charge neutralization and hydroxide precipitation. Basic principles of colloid stability and metal ion hydrolysis are briefly reviewed, and the action of hydrolyzing metal coagulants is then discussed, with some examples from recent experimental studies. Although it is possible to interpret results reasonably well in terms of established ideas, there are still some uncertainties that need to be resolved