April 27, 2023
Journal Article

Structure and reactivity of sodium aluminate complexes in alkaline solutions


The underlying mechanism by which tetrahedrally-coordinated aluminate solutions species react to precipitate octahedrally-coordinated gibbsite is unknown. Sodium aluminate solutions provide the opportunity to investigate the role of the solution speciation and local structures in this reaction as their metastability can be controlled by varying the ratio of excess NaOD to Al3+. Here, the aluminate speciation was investigated in a series of solutions capitalizing on this tunable precipitation behavior through a combination of Raman, infrared, and NMR spectroscopies, combined with geometrical fitting of neutron and X-ray radial distribution functions. These techniques reveal a mixture of monomeric Al(OH)4- and dimeric Al2O(OD)62- in all compositions, but solutions avoiding precipitation for extended timescales (i.e. months to years) show an increased dimeric Al2O(OD)62- population forming at the expense of the Al(OH)4- monomer. Conversion between these species, as well the potential for further oligomerization and formation of pre-nucleation species is driven by the hydrogen/deuterium bonding (H/D-bonding) and proton/deuteron transfer reactions. Changes within the local environment around the aluminate anions, including solvation and the presence of solvent-shared ion pairs or contact ion pairs, will consequently govern the reactivity of these aluminate species to either promote or inhibit precipitation.

Published: April 27, 2023


Nienhuis-Marcial E.T., M. Pouvreau, T.R. Graham, M.P. Prange, K. Page, J.S. Loring, and A.G. Stack, et al. 2022. Structure and reactivity of sodium aluminate complexes in alkaline solutions. Journal of Molecular Liquids 367, no. Part A:Art. No. 120379. PNNL-SA-175319. doi:10.1016/j.molliq.2022.120379