Ion Exchange

Definition - What does Ion Exchange mean?

Ion exchange is the chemical reaction that exists between a solution and an insoluble solid. This process can be reversed, as the ions within the solution can undergo exchange. This process is often used in softening water as well as in separating radioisotopes in water.

This reaction is very beneficial in industries where water purification or softening is required. Ion exchange also aids the removal of harmful particles in water that can cause corrosion to industrial structures like pipes and vessels.

Corrosionpedia explains Ion Exchange

Ion exchange describes the switching of ions among electrolytes or between complexes and electrolyte solutions. The term is often associated with processes like separation, decontamination or purification. This process applies in aqueous solutions as well as other solutions that contain ions and ion exchangers.

Generally, ion exchangers are resins, soil humus or clay or zeolites. It can be any of the following types:

  • Cation exchangers - Substitutes cations or ions with positive charges
  • Anion exchangers - Substitutes anions or ions with negative charges
  • Amphoteric exchangers - Capable of exchanging anions and cations at the same time

Ion exchangers may or may not have binding preferences to particular ions and this depends on the chemical arrangement, ion size and the charge. Some of the common ion types that can bind with these ion exchangers include the following:

  • Hydroxide
  • Protons
  • Monatomic ions such as chlorides
  • Acids and bases (organic)

In industries, water is often used for cleaning surface parts. In order to adhere to standards, dissolved solids should be well regulated, as they could lead to problems like water impurity that could cause corrosion damage or failure to the entire system.

With the proper implementation of water purification or treatment through the process of ion exchange, water contaminants can be eliminated, making the water in the system safe and pure.

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