Ageing of chromium(III)-bearing slag and its relation to the atmospheric oxidation of solid chromium(III)-oxide in the presence of calcium oxide

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University of Cape Town

Slag arising in ferrochromium and stainless steel production is known to contain residual levels of trivalent chromium. As the chromium is normally bound in the slag matrix in various silicate or spinel phases, and hence not easily mobilised, utilisation or controlled disposal of such slag is generally considered unproblematic. Experimental test work with a number of slag materials indicates, however, that very gradual oxidation of trivalent to hexavalent chromium does occur when the slag is exposed to atmospheric oxygen, rendering a quantifiable but small portion of chromium in this much more mobile and toxic form. Mechanisms and rates of the oxidation reaction were investigated in a number of long-term studies using both original slag materials and artificial mixes of chromium and calcium oxides. Powders of these materials, some of them rolled into balls, were left to age under different conditions for periods of up to 12 months. In the slag samples, which contained between 1 and 3 wt.% chromium, 1000–10 000 μg Cr(VI) were found per gram of chromium within 6–9 months of exposure to an ambient atmosphere. The rate of the oxidation reaction decreased exponentially, and the reaction could generally be said to have ceased within 12 months. In mixtures of calcium and chromium oxides the oxidation reaction is presumed to occur at the boundaries between chromium oxide and calcium oxide phases through diffusion of oxygen along the grain boundaries and of Cr3+ across the boundaries, resulting in the formation of calcium chromate. In the slags, where calcium and chromium oxide can form a solid solution, the oxidation is likely to occur at the exposed surface of grains containing this solution.