Removal of ammonia by natural clay minerals using fixed and fluidised bed column reactors
A series of fixed and fluidised bed ion exchange column runs were conducted to identify the ability of natural clay minerals, sepiolite and clinoptilolite, to remove ammonia from a contaminated drinking water reservoir. Ion exchange column tests using both fixed and fluidised bed were initially carried out with synthetic water composed of NH4Cl. Breakthrough curves as a function of flow rate, particle size, and initial ammonia concentration reveal that sepiolite does not have as high ion exchange capacity as clinoptilolite but maintains a steady adsorption up to higher bed volumes. The adsorption capacity was modified by using regeneration cycles at both acidic and alkaline pH. Furthermore, fluidised bed runs with clinoptilolite utilising water and air as fluidiser resulted in inferior results compared to those of fixed bed runs. This was respectively ascribed to the presence of ammonia in the circulating water and competition of exchangeable ions released in water and the ability of air to adsorb nitrogen. Tests conducted with natural raw water contaminated with sewage indicated that clinoptilolite adsorbs ammonia the same as the synthetic water. Regenerated clinoptilolite is capable of removing ammonia from both synthetic and actual raw water at a much higher rate than the untreated clinoptilolite.