Purification of phosphoric acid by solvent extraction

  • Waleed A. Yacu

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This work follows a feasibility study (187) which suggested that a process for purifying wet-process phosphoric acid by solvent extraction should be economically viable. The work was divided into two main areas, (i) chemical and physical measurements on the three-phase system, with or without impurities; (ii) process simulation and optimization. The object was to test the process technically and economically and to optimise the type of solvent.
The chemical equilibria and distribution curves for the system water - phosphoric acid - solvent for the solvents n-amyl alcohol, tri-n-butyl phosphate, di-isopropyl ether and methyl isobutyl ketone have been determined. Both pure phosphoric acid and acid containing known amounts of naturally occurring impurities (Fe P0 4 , A1P0 4 , Ca3(P04)Z and Mg 3(P0 4 )Z) were examined.
The hydrodynamic characteristics of the systems were also studied. The experimental results obtained for drop size distribution were compared with those obtainable from Hinze's equation (32) and it was found that they deviated by an amount related to the turbulence.
A comprehensive literature survey on the purification of wet-process phosphoric acid by organic solvents has been made. The literature regarding solvent extraction fundamentals and equipment and optimization methods for the envisaged process was also reviewed.
A modified form of the Kremser-Brown and Souders equation to calculate the number of contact stages was derived. The modification takes into account the special nature of phosphoric acid distribution curves in the studied systems.
The process flow-sheet was developed and simulated. Powell's direct search optimization method was selected in conjunction with the linear search algorithm of Davies, Swann and Campey. The objective function was defined as the total annual manufacturing cost and the program was employed to find the optimum
operating conditions for anyone of the chosen solvents.
The final results demonstrated the following order of feasibility to purify wet-process acid: di-isopropyl ether, methylisobutyl ketone, n-amyl alcohol and tri-n-butyl phosphate.
Date of Award1977
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorJ. K. Maund (Supervisor)


  • phosphoric acid purification
  • solvent extraction

Cite this