Thallium isotopic fractionation in industrial process of pyrite smelting and environmental implications

Juan Liu, Meiling Yin, Tangfu Xiao, Chaosheng Zhang, Daniel C.W. Tsang, Zhi'an Bao, Yuting Zhou, Yongheng Chen, Xuwen Luo, Wenhuan Yuan, Jin Wang

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

90 Citations (Scopus)


Thallium (Tl) is typical rare element with severe toxicity comparable to Hg and Pb. To track Tl pollution, isotopic fractionation of Tl was evaluated during pyrite smelting for sulfuric acid production. Large variations in Tl isotope compositions were observed among the pyrite ore (PO) and its four different smelting wastes. The starting raw PO had an ε205Tl value of +1.28. The fluidized-bed furnace slag generated by high-temperature smelting had the heaviest ε205Tl (+16.24) in the system. Meanwhile, the boiler fly ash (ε205Tl = +8.34), cyclone fly ash (ε205Tl = +2.17), and electrostatic precipitation fly ash (ε205Tl = –1.10), with decreasing grain sizes during the treatment processes, were characterized by elevated levels of Tl contents and substantial enrichment in the light Tl isotopes relative to the furnace slag. Further calculation and high-resolution transmission electron microscopy indicated that Tl isotope fractionation could be governed by both Rayleigh-type fractionation and adsorption of volatilized Tl by particles of various grain sizes. According to the substantial differences in the PO from its smelting wastes and the measurement precision of isotopic fractionation, it is suggested that Tl isotopes can serve as a new tool for tracing pollution of Tl.

Original languageEnglish
Article number121378
JournalJournal of Hazardous Materials
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2020


  • Fly ash
  • Isotopic signature
  • Potentially toxic elements
  • Pyrite smelting
  • Source apportionment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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