Understanding the structure and composition of aluminate complexes in extremely alkaline systems such as Bayer liquors has received enormous attentions due to its fundamental and industrial importance. However, obtaining direct molecular information of the underlying ion-ion interactions using traditional approaches such as NMR or Raman spectroscopies is challenging due to the weakness of these interactions and/or their complex overlapping spectral signatures. Here we exploit in situ liquid secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) as a new approach and show how it enables new insights. In contrast with traditional techniques, using SIMS we succeeded in acquiring information on dominant ion clusters in these alkaline systems. In Na+/K+ mixed alkaline aluminate solutions we clearly observe preferential formation of Na+-anion clusters over K+-anion clusters. Evaluation of these clusters by density functional theory (DFT) calculations shows that these structures are stable and that their relative bond energies are consistent with their observed SIMS signal intensity differences. This demonstrates a key advantage of in situ liquid SIMS for overcoming ambiguities obscuring important information in these systems on constituent molecular clusters defined by relatively weak ion pair competition and ion-solvent interactions.
Published: November 10, 2023
Wang Y., D. Song, Y. Zhou, C. Cheng, Y. Zhang, C.I. Pearce, and Z. Wang, et al. 2021.Molecular examination of ion-pair competition in alkaline aluminate solutions using in situ liquid SIMS.Analytical Chemistry 93, no. 2:1068-1075.PNNL-SA-156223.doi:10.1021/acs.analchem.0c04070