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Extracting Bromine from sea water

Bromine is used in a variety of ways:


In flame retardants

In bromomethane, a chemical used as a fumigant against pests.

It used to be used as an anti-knock substance with lead, but this has been
phased out as lead compounds damage the environment, and catalytic

Manufacturing Bromine

The manufacturing process of bromine involves four main stages:

1. Oxidation of bromide ions into bromine.

2. Bromine vapour removal.
3. Hydrogen bromide production.
4. Oxidation of hydrogen bromide to bromine.
Oxidation of bromide ions to form bromine

Sea water contains approximately 65,000 tonnes of bromine. This bromine is

removed from the sea water by displacement of the bromide ions using chlorine:
Cl2(g) + 2Br-

2Cl-(aq) + Br2(g)

The acidity is adjusted to pH 3.5 to prevent hydrolysis of the liberated bromine

and chlorine:

Bromine vapour removal


Bromine mixture is air blown, by large fans, through the reaction mixture.

Production of hydrogen bromide


A fine mist of sulphur dioxide and water are mixed with the bromine vapour.

The hydrogen bromide and sulphuric acid mist formed are removed from the air
by passing the mist through a layer of glass fibre, causing the acids to condense.

The bromine at this stage is 2200 times more concentrated than it is in sea

Oxidation of hydrogen bromide to bromine


The acid is oxidised with chlorine to liberate bromine:

2HBr(g) + Cl2(g)

Br2(aq) + 2HCl(aq)

This is achieved by feeding the hydrogen bromide into the top of a tower to meet
a counter-current stream of steam and chlorine.

The bromine vapour is removed from the mixture by steam distillation.

The hot vapour mixture is condensed to form an aqueous layer of bromine,

which is then dried using concentrated sulphuric acid.

How a Hazardous chemical like Bromine is handled


Bromine is an extremely nasty substance. Bromine has a dark and dense choking
vapour (its name comes from the Greek Bromos which translates to Stench).

Due to its unsavoury properties, bromine has to be handled very carefully.

When working with bromine protective suits must be warn, with special
breathing apparatus (right).

Bromine storage tanks are lined with glass, which is hard to corrode and allows
the bromine to be visible.

The tanks have bromine detectors that can sense when concentrations rise
above the permitted 0.1 ppm.

Useful books for revision:

Revise AS Chemistry for Salters (Written by experienced examiners

and teachers of Salter's chemistry)
Revise AS Chemistry for Salters (OCR) (Salters Advanced