Ion exchange resin application


 

Uses

1. Water softening
2. Water purification
3. Production of high purity water
4. Ion-exchange in metal separation
5. Catalysis
6. Juice Purification
7. Sugar Manufacturing
8. Pharmaceuticals 
 


1. Water softening

Main article: Water softening

In this application, ion-exchange resins are used to replace the magnesium and calcium ions found in hard water with sodium ions. When the resin is fresh, it contains sodium ions at its active sites. When in contact with a solution containing magnesium and calcium ions (but a low concentration of sodium ions), the magnesium and calcium ions preferentially migrate out of solution to the active sites on the resin, being replaced in solution by sodium ions. This process reaches equilibrium with a much lower concentration of magnesium and calcium ions in solution than was started with.

The resin can be recharged by washing it with a solution containing a high concentration of sodium ions (e.g. it has large amounts of common salt (NaCl) dissolved in it). The calcium and magnesium ions migrate off the resin, being replaced by sodium ions from the solution until a new equilibrium is reached.

This is the method of operation used in dishwashers that require the use of 'dishwasher salt'. The salt is used to recharge an ion-exchange resin which itself is used to soften the water so that limescale deposits are not left on the cooking and eating utensils being washed.

2. Water purification

In this application, ion-exchange resins are used to remove poisonous (e.g. copper) and heavy metal (e.g. lead or cadmium) ions from solution, replacing them with more innocuous ions, such as sodium and potassium.

Few ion-exchange resins remove chlorine or organic contaminants from water - this is usually done by using an activated charcoal filter mixed in with the resin. There are some ion-exchange resins that do remove organic ions, such as MIEX (magnetic ion-exchange) resins. Domestic water purification resin is not usually recharged - the resin is discarded when it can no longer be used.

3. Production of high purity water

Water of highest purity is required for electronics, scientific experiments, production of superconductors, and nuclear industry, among others. Such water is produced using ion-exchange processes or combinations of membrane and ion-exchange methods. Cations are replaced with hydrogen ions using cation-exchange resins; anions are replaced with hydroxyls using anion-exchange resins. The hydrogen ions and hydroxyls recombine producing water molecules. Thus, no ions remain in the produced water. The purification process is usually performed in several steps with "mixed bed ion-exchange columns" at the end of the technological chain.

4. Ion-exchange in metal separation

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 which families all have very similar chemical and physical properties. Ion-exchange is the only practical way to separate them in large quantities.

A very important case is the PUREX process (plutionium-uranium 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 incidentally 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.

5. Catalysis

In chemistry ion-exchange resins are known to catalyze organic reactions. See for instance self-condensation.

6. Juice Purification

Ion-exchange resins are used in the manufacture of fruit juices such as orange juice where they are used to remove bitter tasting components and so improve the flavor. This allows poorer tasting fruit sources to be used for juice production.

7. Sugar Manufacturing

Ion-exchange resins are used in the manufacturing of sugar from various sources. They are used to help convert one type of sugar into another type of sugar, and to decolorize and purify sugar syrups.

8. Pharmaceuticals

Ion-exchange resins are used in the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals, not only for catalyzing certain reactions but also for isolating and purifying pharmaceutical active ingredients. Three ion-exchange resins, sodium polystyrene sulfonate, colestipol, and cholestyramine, are used as active ingredients. Sodium polystyrene sulfonate is a strongly acidic ion-exchange resin and is used to treat hyperkalemia. Colestipol is a weakly basic ion-exchange resin and is used to treat hypercholesterolemia. Cholestyramine is a strongly basic ion-exchange resin and is also used to treat hypercholesterolemia. Colestipol and cholestyramine are known as bile acid sequestrants.

Ion-exchange resins are also used as excipients in pharmaceutical formulations such as tablets, capsules, and suspensions. In these uses the ion-exchange resin can have several different functions, including taste-masking, extended release, tablet disintegration, and improving the chemical stability of the active ingredients.