Solvent extraction of phosphoric acid

  • Mohammed R. Al-Ghabban

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This work investigated the purification of phosphoric acid using a suitable organic solvent, followed by re-extraction of the acid from the solvent using water. The work consisted of practical batch and continuous studies and the economics and design of a full scale plant, based on the experimental data.
A comprehensive literature survey on the purification of wet process phosphoric acid by organic solvents is presented and the literature describing the design and operation of mixer-settlers has also been reviewed.
In batch studies, the equilibrium and distribution curves for the systems water-phosphoric acid-solvent for Benzaldehyde, Cyclohexanol and Methylisobutylketone (MIBK) were determined together with hydrodynamic
characteristics for both pure and impure systems. The settling time increased with acid concentration, but power input had no effect. Drop size was found to reduce with acid concentration and power input.
For the continuous studies a novel horizontal mixer~settler cascade was designed, constructed and operated using pure and impure acid with MIBK as the solvent. The cascade incorporates three air turbine agitated, cylindrical 900 ml mixers, and three cylindrical 200 ml settlers with air-lift solvent interstage transfer.
Mean drop size in the fully baffled mixer was correlated. Drop size distributions were log-normal and size decreased with acid concentration and power input and increased with dispersed phase hold-up.
Phase inversion studies showed that the width of the ambivalent region depended upon rotor speed, hold-up and acid concentration.
Settler characteristics were investigated by measuring wedge length.
Distribution coefficients of impurities and acid were also investigated. The following optimum extraction conditions were found: initial acid concentration 63%, phase ratio of solvent to acid 1:1 (v/v), impeller speed recommended 900 r.p.m. In the washing step the maximum phase ratio of solvent to water was 8:1 (v/v). Work on phosphoric acid concentration involved constructing distillation
equipment consisting of a 10& spherical still.
A 100 T/d scale detailed process design including capital cost, operating cost and profitability was also completed. A profit model for phosphoric acid extraction was developed and maximised.
Recommendations are made for both the application of the results to a practical design and for extensions of the study.
Date of AwardDec 1981
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorJ. K. Maund (Supervisor)


  • solvent extraction
  • phosphoric acid
  • acid purification

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