Silica (SiO2)

Silica (silicon dioxide), in some cases, is an anion.

The chemistry of silica is a complex and somewhat unpredictable subject.

In similar fashion as TOC reports the total concentration of organics (as carbon) without detailing what the organic compounds are, silica reports the total concentration of silicon (as silica) without detailing what the silicon compounds are.

The "Total Silica" content of a water is composed of "Reactive Silica" and "Unreactive Silica". Reactive silica (e.g. silicates SiO4 ) is dissolved silica that is slightly ionized and has not been polymerized into a long chain.

Reactive silica is the form that RO and ion exchange chemists hope for. Reactive silica is the form of silica to be used in RO projection programs. Reactive silica, though it has anionic characteristics, is not counted as an anion in terms of balancing a water analysis but it is counted as a part of total TDS.

Unreactive silica is polymerized or colloidal silica, acting more like a solid than a dissolved ion. Silica, in the colloidal form, can be removed by a RO but it can cause colloidal fouling of the front-end of a RO.

Colloidal silica, with sizes as small as 0.008 micron can be measured empirically by the SDI (Silt Density Index) test, but only that portion that is larger than 0.45 micron or larger.

Particulate silica compounds (e.g. clays, silts and sand) are usually 1 micron or larger and can be measured using the SDI test. Polymerized silica, which uses silicon dioxide as the building block, exists in nature (e.g. quartzes and agates).

Silica, in the polymerized form, also results from exceeding the reactive silica saturation level.

The solubility of reactive silica is typically limited to 200-300% with the use of a silica dispersant. Reactive silica solubility increases with increasing temperature, increases at a pH less than 7.0 or more than 7.8, and decreases in the presence of iron which acts as a catalyst in the polymerization of silica.

Silica rejection is pH sensitive, with increasing rejection at a more basic pH as the reactive silica exists more in the salt form than in the acidic form.


Author: T.P.Sivanandan

6 thoughts on “Silica (SiO2)”

  1. Is there any new technology treatment method for the reduction of raw water silica, say 80 ppm before it is allowed through UF and then RO membrane. Other conventional methods methods are not required.

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