Red mud
Red mud is a solid
Solid is one of the three classical states of matter . It is characterized by structural rigidity and resistance to changes of shape or volume. Unlike a liquid, a solid object does not flow to take on the shape of its container, nor does it expand to fill the entire volume available to it like a...

Waste is unwanted or useless materials. In biology, waste is any of the many unwanted substances or toxins that are expelled from living organisms, metabolic waste; such as urea, sweat or feces. Litter is waste which has been disposed of improperly...

 product of the Bayer process
Bayer process
The Bayer process is the principal industrial means of refining bauxite to produce alumina .Bauxite, the most important ore of aluminium, contains only 30–54% alumina, Al2O3, the rest being a mixture of silica, various iron oxides, and titanium dioxide. The alumina must be purified before it can...

, the principal industrial means of refining bauxite
Bauxite is an aluminium ore and is the main source of aluminium. This form of rock consists mostly of the minerals gibbsite Al3, boehmite γ-AlO, and diaspore α-AlO, in a mixture with the two iron oxides goethite and hematite, the clay mineral kaolinite, and small amounts of anatase TiO2...

 in order to provide alumina as raw material for the electrolysis
In chemistry and manufacturing, electrolysis is a method of using a direct electric current to drive an otherwise non-spontaneous chemical reaction...

 of aluminium
Aluminium or aluminum is a silvery white member of the boron group of chemical elements. It has the symbol Al, and its atomic number is 13. It is not soluble in water under normal circumstances....

 by the Hall–Héroult process. A typical plant produces one to two times as much red mud as alumina. This ratio is dependent on the type of bauxite used in the refining process.

Red mud is composed of a mixture of solid and metal
A metal , is an element, compound, or alloy that is a good conductor of both electricity and heat. Metals are usually malleable and shiny, that is they reflect most of incident light...

lic oxide-bearing impurities, and presents one of the aluminium industry
Industry refers to the production of an economic good or service within an economy.-Industrial sectors:There are four key industrial economic sectors: the primary sector, largely raw material extraction industries such as mining and farming; the secondary sector, involving refining, construction,...

's most important disposal problems. The red
Red is any of a number of similar colors evoked by light consisting predominantly of the longest wavelengths of light discernible by the human eye, in the wavelength range of roughly 630–740 nm. Longer wavelengths than this are called infrared , and cannot be seen by the naked eye...

 colour is caused by the oxidised iron
Iron is a chemical element with the symbol Fe and atomic number 26. It is a metal in the first transition series. It is the most common element forming the planet Earth as a whole, forming much of Earth's outer and inner core. It is the fourth most common element in the Earth's crust...

 present, which can make up to 60% of the mass of the red mud. In addition to iron, the other dominant particles include silica, unleached residual aluminium, and titanium oxide
Titanium oxide
Titanium oxide may refer to:* Titanium dioxide , TiO2* Titanium oxide , TiO, a non-stoichiometric oxide* Titanium oxide , Ti2O3* Ti3O* Ti2O* δ-TiOx...


Red mud cannot be disposed of easily. In most countries where red mud is produced, it is pumped into holding ponds. Red mud presents a problem as it takes up land area and can neither be built on nor farmed, even when dry. Due to the Bayer process the mud is highly basic
Base (chemistry)
For the term in genetics, see base A base in chemistry is a substance that can accept hydrogen ions or more generally, donate electron pairs. A soluble base is referred to as an alkali if it contains and releases hydroxide ions quantitatively...

 with a pH
In chemistry, pH is a measure of the acidity or basicity of an aqueous solution. Pure water is said to be neutral, with a pH close to 7.0 at . Solutions with a pH less than 7 are said to be acidic and solutions with a pH greater than 7 are basic or alkaline...

 ranging from 10 to 13. Several methods are used to lower the alkaline pH to an acceptable level to decrease the impact on the environment. Research is done to find a suitable way to utilize the mud for other applications, but drying the mud requires much energy (latent heat
Latent heat
Latent heat is the heat released or absorbed by a chemical substance or a thermodynamic system during a process that occurs without a change in temperature. A typical example is a change of state of matter, meaning a phase transition such as the melting of ice or the boiling of water. The term was...

 for water
Water is a chemical substance with the chemical formula H2O. A water molecule contains one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms connected by covalent bonds. Water is a liquid at ambient conditions, but it often co-exists on Earth with its solid state, ice, and gaseous state . Water also exists in a...

Evaporation is a type of vaporization of a liquid that occurs only on the surface of a liquid. The other type of vaporization is boiling, which, instead, occurs on the entire mass of the liquid....

) and can represent high costs if fossil fuel
Fossil fuel
Fossil fuels are fuels formed by natural processes such as anaerobic decomposition of buried dead organisms. The age of the organisms and their resulting fossil fuels is typically millions of years, and sometimes exceeds 650 million years...

s have to be used in the drying process.

In October 2010, approximately one million cubic meters of red mud from an alumina plant near Kolontár
Kolontár is a village in Veszprém county, Hungary.- Soil pollution disaster :On 4 October 2010 a 1.5 - 4 meters-high wave of red mud flooded the village from a plant nearby causing nine deaths and several severe chemical burn injuries. Six bodies were found in the mud and other three victims died...

 in Hungary
Hungary , officially the Republic of Hungary , is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is situated in the Carpathian Basin and is bordered by Slovakia to the north, Ukraine and Romania to the east, Serbia and Croatia to the south, Slovenia to the southwest and Austria to the west. The...

 were accidentally released into the surrounding countryside in the Ajka alumina plant accident
Ajka alumina plant accident
The Ajka alumina sludge spill was an industrial accident at a caustic waste reservoir chain of the Ajkai Timföldgyár alumina plant in Ajka, Veszprém County, in western Hungary...

, killing nine people and contaminating a large area. All life in the Marcal
The Marcal is a right tributary of the Rába which has its source near Sümeg in the Bakony region of western Hungary. The river flows north and reaches Ukk on the Little Hungarian Plain. It follows a path similar to the Rába, and in many places the two rivers are only a kilometer apart...

 river was said to have been "extinguished" by the red mud, and within days the mud had reached the Danube
The Danube is a river in the Central Europe and the Europe's second longest river after the Volga. It is classified as an international waterway....

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