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Dissolubility and surface properties of a natural sphalerite in aqueous solution

Minerals & Metallurgical Processing , 2012, Vol. 29, No. 2, pp. 113-120

Liu, Jian; Wen, Shuming; Xian, Yongjun; Deng, Jiushuai; Huang, Yanlong


The dissolubility of a natural sphalerite (ZnS) in the entire pH range was theoretically calculated, and its practical dissolution in an aqueous solution at different pH values in an inert environment, together with its surface properties after dissolution, was fully investigated. The results of the investigation indicate that the total concentration of Zn (CZnT) decreases significantly with the increase of pH value, while the pH value is set below 8; however, it reverses when the pH value reaches 8. Such a tendency is similar to that of the theoretical calculations, although the experimental CZnT were much higher than those of the theoretical calculations. The X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) of the sphalerite surface after its dissolution under alkaline solution shows that a polysulfide (Sn2-) surface layer with a binding energy (BE) value of 162.96-163.25 eV is present on the surface, and the percentage of Sn2- increases significantly with an increase in pH value; the undissolved and dissolved sphalerites under the acidic solution have a negligible difference in S2p peaks. The surface S/Zn ratio of all dissolved sphalerites shows a marked Zn enrichment and S deficiency. An atomic force microscope (AFM) view of the sphalerite surface, after its dissolution under the alkaline solution at a pH of 12, shows that the surface is significantly different in morphology from that of the undissolved one.