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Pure Appl. Chem., 2011, Vol. 83, No. 5, pp. 1015-1030

Published online 2011-04-04

Chemistry of salts in aqueous solutions: Applications, experiments, and theory

Wolfgang Voigt

TU Bergakademie Freiberg, Institut für Anorganische Chemie, Leipziger Strasse 29, D-09596 Freiberg, Germany

Abstract: Salts comprise a very large and important group of chemical compounds. Natural occurrence of salts and industrial processes of their recovery, conversion, purification, and use depend on solubility phenomena and their chemistry in aqueous solutions, mostly in multi-ion systems. Modeling of these processes as well as developing new ones requires knowledge of the properties of the aqueous salt solutions in extended T-p-x ranges including a growing number of components in solutions (CO2, SO2, lithium salts, salts of rare earth metals, actinides, etc.). At least for the thermodynamic properties, the general accepted methodology is to use thermodynamic databases of aqueous species and solids in combination with an appropriate ion-interaction model to perform equilibrium calculations for species distributions in solution and phase equilibria. The situation in respect to available thermodynamic models and data for their parameterization is discussed at selected examples. Thereby, the importance of accurate experimental determinations of phase equilibrium data for derivation of model parameters is emphasized. Furthermore, it is concluded that experimental investigations should follow a chemical systematic. Simple physical models or quantum chemical calculations cannot predict unknown quantities in the databases with sufficient accuracy. Finally, solubility changes in salt-water systems at enhanced temperatures are considered. Systems, which can be considered as molten hydrates, display interesting phase behavior and chemical reactivity as protic ionic liquids. The latter can be exploited in chemical syntheses to substitute mixtures of concentrated acids like HNO3/H2SO4 by simple salts like ferric nitrate. For an understanding of the chemical and phase behavior of water-salt systems in terms of structure–property relations, a renaissance of chemical guided basic investigations of such systems would be worthwhile.