Little girl in the kitchen drinking water from the tap

Tiny specialists for water treatment 

Ion exchangers are tiny polymer beads that enable water softening and treatment - without harmful additives.

Ion exchangers are versatile:

  • providing clean drinking water and
  • ultra-purifying water in production processes,
  • protect dishwashers and washing machines in households and even
  • decontaminating waste water.
"The small polymer beads are true multitalents. They refine drinking water, help in the production of food and energy, protect our household appliances and help to protect the environment".

Hans-Jürgen Wedemeyer,
Manager Technical Marketing Water Solutions

Ion exchange resins: Mini multitalents

100 years ago, the German chemist Hermann Staudinger proved that small molecules can combine to form large chain or branched molecules. These are called macromolecules. In doing so, he laid the foundations for plastics chemistry. In 1953 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for his discovery.

Polymers can be obtained from natural substances or – like plastics – can be entirely synthetic. The possibilities for their application are enormous, including in water softening and water treatment. Polymers act as exchangers in these processes.

How ion exchangers work in water softening

Ion exchangers are water-insoluble polystyrene resins and acrylic resins with a diameter of 0.25 to 1.3 millimeters. They are given precisely defined properties during production. LANXESS uses different polymers as basic materials that are used to produce about 150 ion exchangers for different specialized applications. These are either gel-like or solid with a porous structure and they can bind certain molecules and release others in return.

How water softening works:

  • Water can be softened by removing calcium or magnesium ions.
  • The calcium and magnesium ions that cause hardness in the water are replaced by sodium ions that are released by the ion exchanger when the calcium and magnesium ions are absorbed.

The result: Water softening prevents lime deposits from forming, protecting washing machines and coffee machines, among other household appliances.


At home – Better drinking water, longer-lasting dishwashers

The simple principle of ion exchange has found a wide range of practical household applications, such as:

  • water softening using table filters because many people find the taste of tea and coffee improves when made with soft drinking water. Additionally, coffee makers and water kettles do not calcify as quickly.
  • removing undesired elements in drinking water that influence the taste and aroma.
  • the softening of water in the dishwasher - so that no calcium builds up on cups and glasses.
  • softening the water throughout an entire household water system in order to soften drinking water and protect household appliances such as washing machines and dishwashers from calcification, as well.
  • To improve water quality for watering flowers in the homes and gardens, as well as in aquariums.
TIP: Did you know that the calcium contained in water can impair the effectiveness of washing detergents? These surfactants develop their optimal cleansing impact in softened water. So, the amounts of fresh water, detergents and cleaning agents can be reduced by using decalcified water!

Food industry: Delicious wine and white sugar

Ion exchangers play an important role in beverage production

Ion exchangers remove unwanted ingredients that impair taste and aroma.

  • For soft-drinks, for example, the water is decarbonized (selective water softening), thus removing all hardness.
  • If magnesium remained in the beer, it would be extremely bitter.
  • Fruit juices and dairy products are also deacidified or desalinated with the help of ion exchangers. 

Ion exchangers ensure superior wine quality

Lewatit® is used to ensure optimum wine properties. They help in 

  • wine stabilization,
  • taste improvement
  • adjusting the alcohol content.


This is how unadulterated sugar sweetness is ensured

One of the most important applications in the food sector is the manufacture of sugar and glucose syrup. When white crystalline fine sugar is produced from raw sugar during the so-called refining process, this is largely thanks to Lewatit® ion exchange resins, which 

Homemade red wine sangria with orange, apple, strawberry and ice in pitcher  and glass on rustic wooden background
Fruit juices, tea, wine and fine sugar combine to make an exquisite punch drink. Ion exchangers are used to guarantee the unadulterated taste quality of the ingredients
  • remove salts from the raw solutions that would otherwise adulterate the sweet taste and
  • extract the yellow / brown substances that give raw sugar its distinctive earthy color.

Ultrapure water for the electronics industry

Many branches of industry, as well as research and development, depend on water that meets very special purity and quality requirements. For example, this so-called ultrapure water is used in

  • the pharmaceutical industry
  • the solar industry,
  • aerospace technology,
  • semiconductor production.

Semiconductor components include microchips, LCD and OLED displays and photovoltaic cells. With each new generation of components, the demands on the purity of the water used increase. The smaller the dimensions of the electronic components, the more sensitive the production processes are to ion particles remaining in the water and to dissolved organic impurities. Only specially manufactured Ion exchangers can meet the constantly increasing customer requirements.


Production of battery elements for electromobility

The extraction of high-purity, battery-compatible lithium, copper, nickel and cobalt is essential in accelerating the transition to electromobility. These four metals form the primary components of lithium-ion batteries.

Here, too, ion exchange resins have already proven their worth for some time. Solutions of the metal ions that arise during refining and recycling are concentrated using selective Lewatit® ion exchangers. Efficient extraction processes lead to the resource-saving production of battery chemicals. The final fine cleaning of the metal concentrates leads to high-purity battery materials, which are required for the production of lithium-ion batteries with high capacity and durability.

"Lithium-ion batteries are the main energy source for e-cars, e-bikes or e-scooters and are therefore an elementary factor in the development of electromobility".

Dirk Steinhilber,
Technical Marketing Manager 

Water treatment in power plants and industrial operations

Ion exchangers are indispensable in the steam cycles of power plants

  • for the preparation of the raw water and
  • for the treatment of condensate for steam generation.

Electrical power plants use boilers to generate steam to generate electricity. Boiler feed water is heated to be converted into steam and the purity of this water must fulfill high requirements in large modern power plants. Hardening agents and impurities, as well as dissolved oxygen can: 

  • quickly form deposits in boilers and pipes under extreme temperature and pressure conditions, thus leading to 
  • uncontrollable corrosion of metallic plant components. 

Ion exchangers and exchange-based catalysts prevent this. They make an important contribution to trouble-free operation and thereby to the power plants’ safety.

Water treatment for the metal industry 

In the galvanic and metal processing industry, special ion exchangers are used to treat waste water containing metal. Examples are technologies to: 

  • desalinate galvanic rinsing water and recirculate it after cleaning,
  • remove heavy metals,
  • recover valuable metals from galvanic rinsing water.

Ion exchangers have proven effective in treating washing and rinsing water in the electroplating industry, leading to fresh water savings of up to 95 percent. The quality of the rinsing water has also improved. 

If valuable or precious metals can also be recovered from the baths, this is a further economic advantage: waste is turned into raw materials.


Protecting the environment with ion exchangers

Ion exchangers also play an important role in decontaminating polluted sites:

  • in the purification of water containing heavy metals, such as from flue gas scrubbing or landfill leachate,
  • in groundwater remediation, where heavy metal ions, chlorinated hydrocarbons and other organic contaminants are removed.

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