Influence of irradiance on the photochemical reduction of europium(iii)
The influence of irradiance on the photochemical reduction of europium(III) to europium(II) is studied. It is known that europium removal from various rare-earth mixtures is feasible by means of photochemical reduction followed by precipitation, but the effect of the nature of the light source has not been investigated in detail yet. It is shown that irradiance rather than electrical power is a key parameter to characterize light sources used for photochemical experiments and to compare experiments with set-ups using different light sources. The irradiance of a light source, expressed in Watts per unit of area (mW cm−2), has a crucial impact on the photochemical reduction of europium(III) in aqueous media, in particular on the illumination time needed for europium removal from the solution. The influence of the irradiance on the induction time (a period with no or little europium removal in the first illumination hours), the europium removal rate after the induction time, the overall removal time and the time needed to remove 50% of the initial europium content from the solution (t50%) is studied. It is observed that higher irradiances result in shorter induction times, faster europium removal rates, lower t50% and hence shorter overall illumination times. The threshold irradiance to obtain 50% europium removal in 36 hours was found to be 2.7 mW cm−2, with an induction time of 28 hours. The residual europium content in all samples was lower than 2.5%, resulting in removal efficiencies of over 97.5%. This residual europium content seems to be increasing when the relative irradiance related to the back-oxidation increases, although this correlation cannot be fully explained yet. This work gives new insights that can be used for the photochemical recycling of europium from end-of-life red phosphors in compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs).