Solvent extraction of metal sulfates by zwitterionic forms of ditopic ligands

R A Coxall, L F Lindoy, H A Miller, A Parkin, S Parsons, P A Tasker, D J White

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ditopic ligands have been designed and synthesized for the solvent extraction and membrane transport of transition metal salts for application in metal separation and purification processes. Tetradentate salicylaldimine ligands of the H(2)salen type bearing pendant tertiary amine groups undergo a zwitterionic transformation when binding metal salts, forming overall neutral assemblies which can be transferred into non-polar, water-immiscible solvents. A comparison of the solid state structures of copper(II) sulfate and neutral copper-only complexes demonstrates how incorporation of the metal ion into the salen(2-) unit preorganises the anion binding site to accommodate the sulfate group. The extraction/recovery characteristics of copper and sulfate are reported for a ligand which has been modified to lower the strength of copper-binding and thus facilitate copper-recovery and ligand-recycling. An X-ray structure determination of this 2,2'-biphenylene-bridged ligand indicates a predisposition towards the provision of a nonplanar N2O22- donor-set. This is exemplified by its cis-octahedral nickel(II) sulfate complex in which the sulfate acts as a bidentate ligand. Competitive metal ion transport experiments show the selectivity of this ligand for copper() transport over a range of other metals including nickel(II) and zinc(II). The pH profiles for loading of Cu2+ (pH(1/2) 2.0, i.e. pH at 50 percent extraction) and of SO42- (pH(1/2) 9.7) into the ligand zwitterion in chloroform have been determined and this has allowed the demonstration of a protocol for loading of CuSO4, stripping of copper and sulfate separately and recycling of the extractant. Such a protocol provides proof-of-concept for application of these ditopic ligands in metal recovery from sulfide leaching or from acid mine drainage streams.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-64
Number of pages10
JournalDalton Transactions
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2003


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