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Abstract

Liquid-liquid extraction provides an environmentally friendly process as an alternative to azeotropic distillation, pervaporation and reverse osmosis because these techniques require the use of large amounts of energy, may involve volatile organic compounds, and operation at high pressure. Ionic liquids (ILs) continue to gain wide recognition as potential environmentally friendly solvents due to their unique properties. However due to their current high cost, their use in industry is seriously limited without an efficient methodology for recovery and recycle. In this paper we describe an innovative methodology for a liquid-liquid extraction process based on an electrically induced emulsion of an ionic liquid as the extracting solvent dispersed in an organic mixture. This offers a most efficient exploitation of the solvent. On the other hand we present our own design of a pilot (semi-industrial) scale extractor based on this methodology and which demonstrates effective recovery of the ionic liquid. In order to achieve this goal we used a numerical modelling tool implemented using our own simulation software based on the finite element method. We also used our original previous experience with generating and investigating liquid-liquid electrosprays using phase Doppler anemometry. Finally we present recommendations for contactor geometry and for the preferred operating conditions for the extractor.
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