Ferric Chloride (FeCI3)

Iron(III) chloride,(or Iron trichloride) also called ferric chloride, is an industrial scale commodity chemical compound, with the formulaFeCl3 and with iron in the +3 oxidation state. The colour of iron(III) chloride crystals depends on the viewing angle: by reflected light the crystals appear dark green, but by transmitted light they appear purple-red. Anhydrous iron(III) chloride is deliquescent, forming hydrated hydrogen chloride mists in moist air. It is rarely observed in its natural form, the mineral molysite, known mainly from some fumaroles.

When dissolved in water, iron(III) chloride undergoes hydrolysis and gives off heat in an exothermic reaction. The resulting brown, acidic, and corrosive solution is used as a flocculant in sewage  treatment and drinking water production, and as an etchant for copper-based metals in printed circuit borads. Anhydrous iron(III) chloride is a fairly strong Lewis acid, and it is used as a catalyst in organic synthesis.

Ferric chloride solution are produced industrially both from iron chipping and iron ore, in a closed-loop process:

  • Dissolving iron one in hydrochloric acid

Fe3O4(s) + 8 HCl(aq) → FeCl2(aq) + 2 FeCl3(aq) + 4 H2O(l)

  • Oxidation of iron (II) chloride with chlorine

2 FeCl2(aq) + Cl2(g) → 2 FeCl3(aq)

Ferric chloride is used in sewage treatment and water treatment plant In this application, FeCl3 in slightly basic water reacts with the hydroxide ion to form a floc of iron(III) hydroxide, or more precisely formulated as FeO(OH), that can remove suspended materials.

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