Comment on Ernest et al. Programmable Thermal Dissociation of Reactive Gaseous Mercury, A Potential Approach to Chemical Speciation: Results from a Field Study. Atmosphere 2014, 5, 575–596

Keith Schofield
2016 Atmosphere  
The authors of this paper utilized a so-called "programmable thermal dissociation method" to monitor HgCl 2 emitted from a coal-fired Florida combustion plant. By comparison, they did confirm that the emitted mercury compound was in fact the dichloride, which is in fact the only such plausible molecule for mercury. However, the subtle implications in the paper that the HgCl 2 (g) molecule is not thermally stable and can readily dissociate in the gas phase at temperatures below 300 • C is not
more » ... sistent with a very broad spectrum of chemical information and clearly can be misleading and incorrect if not more fully explained. Unlike elemental mercury, its dichloride is known as a corrosive sublimate and it is soluble in water. Its heat of formation and heat of vaporization are well known, providing a gas-phase heat of formation that indicates an atomization energy D 0,Atomization (HgCl 2 ) g = 445 ± 5 kJ·mol −1 [1,2], supported also by theory [3] . The monohalide, HgCl(g), is well characterized and known to be very weakly bound, with D 0 (HgCl) = 96 ± 8 kJ·mol −1 (experimentally) [4, 5] and 94 kJ·mol −1 (theoretically) [3, 6, 7] . Coupling these values implies the ClHg-Cl bond in HgCl 2 (g) has a bond strength of about 350 kJ·mol −1 . This is a significant strength and clearly indicates the unequal strengths of the two bonds. Its stability is the reason, in chemical equilibrium calculations describing combustion, why it is predicted that elemental Hg should be negligible and HgCl 2 (g) dominant [8] . The fact that it is not is due to the kinetic and time constraints on the formation mechanisms converting Hg to HgCl 2 . Nevertheless, the thermodynamic calculations illustrate its bond strength and that it should be thermally stable below 500 • C, above which it does begin to thermally dissociate or be hydrolyzed by any gaseous water present. HgCl 2 (s) is very volatile and its vapor pressure is well established [2, 9, 10] . This increases rapidly in the 150-250 • C range (3 × 10 −3 atm., 150 • C; 0.1, 228 • C; 0.2, 246 • C), with a boiling point of about 300 • C. Thermogravimetric measurements for HgCl 2 clearly indicate this rapid sublimation [11] , and an attached atomic absorption analyzer confirmed the molecular nature of the vaporization [12] . No evidence was indicated for the presence of free Hg atoms while the mass decreased. The confusion has arisen from mercury's ability under certain conditions to release atomic mercury in nature from its molecules not only from oceanic sources but also from vegetation and soils [13, 14] . This also has been apparent when HgCl 2 is absorbed into mixtures such as quartz, pyrex or ceramic wool, or activated charcoal [15] , or may happen from the gypsum produced from combustor flue gas desulfurizers [16] . Although studied for many years, the mechanism for this chemical reduction and release still remains unknown [17, 18] . In relation to coal combustion, this laboratory has monitored the induced conversion of Hg(g) to HgCl 2 (g) on passing coal-fired flue gases through a non-catalytic honeycomb carbon-steel metal insert held at temperatures in the region of 250 • C. This has now been confirmed in two coal-fired
doi:10.3390/atmos7090119 fatcat:7du2mxfxhncf3gacybthk3dkyu