Study of Hypochlorite Reduction Related to the Sodium Chlorate Process
Reduction of hypochlorite is the most important side reaction in the sodium chlorate reactor leading to high energy losses. Today chromate is added to the reactor solution to minimize the hypochlorite reduction but a replacement is necessary due to health and environmental risks with chromate. In order to understand the effect of different substrates on the hypochlorite reduction, alpha-FeOOH, gamma-FeOOH, Cr2O3 and CrOH3 were electrodeposited on titanium and subjected to electrochemical investigations. These substances are commonly found on cathodes in the chlorate process and can serve as model substances for the experimental investigation. The mechanism of hypochlorite reduction was also studied using DFT calculations in which the reaction at Fe(III) and Cr(III) surface sites were considered in order to single out the electrocatalytic properties. The experimental results clearly demonstrated that the chromium films completely block the reduction of hypochlorite, while for the iron oxyhydroxides the process can readily occur. Since the electrocatalytic properties per se were shown by the DFT calculations to be very similar for Fe(III) and Cr(III) sites in the oxide matrix, other explanations for the blocking ability of chromium films are addressed and discussed in the context of surface charging, reduction of anions and conduction in the deposited films. The main conclusion is that the combined effect of electronic properties and reduction of negatively charged ions can explain the reduction kinetics of hypochlorite and the effect of chromate in the chlorate process.