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Chloride Salt Purification by Reaction With Thionyl Chloride Vapors to Remove Oxygen, Oxygenated Compounds, and Hydroxides...

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Frontiers in Chemical Engineering
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Molten chloride salts (including MgCl2, KCl, NaCl, and ZnCl2) are being considered for heat transfer media for renewable (solar) and nuclear power generators, as fuel carrier for nuclear reactors, and as thermal energy storage media. Impurities such as oxygen, hydroxides, moisture, and sulfur are known to negatively influence the corrosion of materials in contact with the salt (e.g., structural metals). Commercially available chloride salts come with a range of impurities. Before using the chloride salts at high temperature, it is desirable to remove the impurities to increase the performance of the salt and reduce corrosion. In this study, we tested the use of thionyl chloride vaporized into a stream of argon to react with oxygenated impurities in a mixture of MgCl2-KCl-NaCl, removing them as HCl and SO2. The reagent was bubbled through the salt when both above and below the melting point. The reaction was followed using thermocouple data from the salt and by Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy on the exhaust of the reactor. The reaction kinetics were followed by comparing the peaks from SO2 product to SOCl2 reagent in the FTIR spectra. The purity of the salt was assessed at the end of the purification process by x-ray diffraction and inductively coupled plasma analysis. Although the process was effective in removing the oxygen content of the mixture, ternary compounds were formed in the process, including KNiCl3 and KMgCl3. The nickel in KNiCl3 came from the reaction between the salt and the nickel vessel. Thus, these experiments suggest that improvements to the process must be made before using SOCl2 vapors for the purification of chloride salts.