Many industrial unit operations and unit processes require near-complete removal of hardness to avoid scaling in heat-transfer equipment, fouling in membranes, and high consumption of detergents and sequestering chemicals in cooling and wash water. Lime softening and cation exchange are the most commonly used processes practiced to date for hardness removal. Herein, we report and discuss the results and attributes of a new hardness removal process using ion-exchange fibers (IX-fibers). Most importantly, the process uses harvested snowmelt (or rainwater) as the regenerant chemical along with sparged carbon dioxide. Consequently, the spent regenerant does not contain a high concentration of aggressive chemicals such as sodium chloride or acid like traditional ion-exchange processes nor does the process produce voluminous sludges similar to lime softening. The bulk of carbon dioxide consumed during regeneration remains sequestered in the aqueous phase as alkalinity. IX-fibers form the heart of the process. They are essentially thin cylindrical polymeric strands 10-20 microm in diameter. The weak-acid carboxylate functional groups reside near to the surface of these cylindrical fibers. Low intraparticle diffusional resistance is the underlying reason IX-fibers are amenable to efficient regeneration with snowmelt sparged with carbon dioxide. When the carbon dioxide partial pressure is increased to 6.8 atm, over 90% calcium desorption efficiency is obtained. On the contrary, commercial weak-acid ion-exchange resins in spherical bead forms are ineffective for regeneration with carbon-dioxide-sparged snowmelt due to extremely slow ion-exchange kinetics involving counter-transport of Ca2+ and H+.

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