Understanding the sources of mercury release from coal: A combined experimental and molecular simulation study

J Wu and WQ Xie and JQ Tan and LF Liu, JOURNAL OF HAZARDOUS MATERIALS, 460, 132429 (2023).

DOI: 10.1016/j.jhazmat.2023.132429

Understanding the occurrence modes of mercury in coal is important as its release poses long-term adverse ef-fects on the environment and human health during coal production and utilization. However, the matter still remains a subject of controversy due to differing results from direct and indirect analyses, which suggest various possible modes of occurrence for mercury in coal. Additionally, the experimental measurement of Hg concentration presents challenges, further contributing to the complexity of the issue. A comprehensive investigation of experiments and molecular simulations is conducted herein. Electron probe microanalysis and elemental map-ping analysis show that elemental Hg is concentrated in framboidal pyrites while absent in organic matter. To understand the occurrence modes of mercury in inorganic and organic materials at the atomic level, molecular simulations are performed for Hg2+ adsorption and retention in MMT, pyrite, and kerogen slit nanopores. It is found that the inorganic MMT and pyrite surfaces have a greater adsorption capacity than the organic kerogen surface (pyrite > MMT > kerogen). The outer-sphere adsorption is mainly observed with at least one monolayer of water molecules exiting between the ion and mineral surfaces. MMT has the highest retention for Hg2+ transport as the self-diffusion coefficient is the smallest among the three slit pores (MMT < pyrite < kerogen).The high adsorption and retention originate from the strong Hg2+-mineral interaction. These results suggest that mercury in coal is most likely associated with inorganic minerals instead of organic matter.

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