Electrodialytic remediation of fly ash from co-combustion of wood and straw

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The heavy metal content in fly ash from biomass combustion, such as straw, wood and sludge, often needs reducing before the ash can be used as fertilizer for agricultural land or as a component in the production of construction materials. In this study, fly ash from a boiler fueled with wood chips and straw was treated either by electrodialytic remediation (EDR) directly or by a combination of EDR and pre-wash with distilled water to investigate the possibilities of reducing the heavy metal content and reusing nutrients as fertilizer and bulk material in construction materials. Different experimental set-ups were tested for EDR treatment primarily of Cd and Pb as well as of Cu and Zn. Elemental contents such as K, P and Ni were compared in ash samples before and after treatment. The results showed that pre-washing caused an increase in total concentrations of most heavy metals because the highly soluble fraction, mainly KCl and K2SO4, was removed. After EDR treatment, the Cd concentration was reduced to below 2mgkg-1 in all ash samples with high and stable average removal of above 95%, no matter how high the initial concentration was. The amount of Pb removed varied from 12% to 67%. Even though Pb was extracted from the ash samples, its concentrations in the treated ash samples were elevated due to the ash dissolution, except in the case of pre-washed ash treated in a two-compartment EDR cell, where the mass of Pb removed was the highest with a final concentration of about 100mgkg-1. The two-compartment EDR cell probably performed better due to a fast acidification process. In addition, this process was less energy-consuming. However, the fast acidification did in turn affect the leaching property of the treated ash, such as As and Ni, exceeding the limiting concentrations. The EDR/pre-wash-EDR treated ash mainly contained quartz, and the X-ray diffraction (XRD) peaks of K salts had disappeared. This shows that the potassium fertilizer potential was lost in the treated ashes, but the quartz mineral is beneficial in construction materials, such as ceramics. The K fertilizer could be recovered from the water after pre-washing and also from the catholyte through chemical operations, including a separation step.
Original languageEnglish
JournalElectrochimica Acta
Pages (from-to)208-216
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Electrodialytic remediation
  • Fly ash
  • Heavy metals
  • Straw and wood
  • Acidification
  • Cadmium
  • Chemical operations
  • Combustion
  • Fertilizers
  • Lead
  • Metals
  • Nickel
  • Potassium fertilizers
  • Quartz
  • Washing
  • Wood
  • Wood products
  • Wooden construction
  • X ray diffraction
  • Agricultural land
  • Biomass combustion
  • Cd concentrations
  • Elemental contents
  • Heavy metal contents
  • Initial concentration
  • Soluble fraction
  • Pollution

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