Copper stabilization via spinel formation during the sintering of simulated copper-laden sludge with aluminum-rich ceramic precursors

Environ Sci Technol. 2011 Apr 15;45(8):3598-604. doi: 10.1021/es103596k. Epub 2011 Mar 23.


The feasibility of incorporating copper-laden sludge into low-cost ceramic products, such as construction ceramics, was investigated by sintering simulated copper-laden sludge with four aluminum-rich ceramic precursors. The results indicated that all of these precursors (γ-Al(2)O(3), corundum, kaolinite, mullite) could crystallochemically stabilize the hazardous copper in the more durable copper aluminate spinel (CuAl(2)O(4)) structure. To simulate the process of copper transformation into a spinel structure, CuO was mixed with the four aluminum-rich precursors, and fired at 650-1150 °C for 3 h. The products were examined using powder X-ray diffraction (XRD) and scanning electron microscopic techniques. The efficiency of copper transformation among crystalline phases was quantitatively determined through Rietveld refinement analysis of the XRD data. The sintering experiment revealed that the optimal sintering temperature for CuAl(2)O(4) formation was around 1000 °C and that the efficiency of copper incorporation into the crystalline CuAl(2)O(4) structure after 3 h of sintering ranged from 40 to 95%, depending on the type of aluminum precursor used. Prolonged leaching tests were carried out by using acetic acid with an initial pH value of 2.9 to leach CuO and CuAl(2)O(4) samples for 22 d. The sample leachability analysis revealed that the CuAl(2)O(4) spinel structure was more superior to stabilize copper, and suggested a promising and reliable technique for incorporating copper-laden sludge or its incineration ash into usable ceramic products. Such results also demonstrated the potential of a waste-to-resource strategy by using waste materials as part of the raw materials with the attainable temperature range used in the production of ceramics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aluminum / chemistry*
  • Aluminum Oxide / chemistry*
  • Aluminum Silicates / chemistry
  • Ceramics / chemistry*
  • Copper / chemistry*
  • Environmental Pollutants / chemistry*
  • Kaolin / chemistry
  • Magnesium Oxide / chemistry*
  • Waste Management / methods*
  • Waste Products / analysis


  • Aluminum Silicates
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Waste Products
  • spinell
  • aluminosilicate
  • Kaolin
  • Magnesium Oxide
  • Copper
  • Aluminum
  • Aluminum Oxide