The present study was conducted to characterize several raw materials and co-products from the titanium dioxide industry in relation to their elemental composition (major, minor and trace elements), granulometry, mineralogy, microscopic morphology and physical composition. The main objective was to gain basic information for the future potential application of these co-products in fields such as agriculture, construction, civil engineering, etc. Microscopic studies were performed by applying scanning electron microscopy with X-ray microanalysis (SEM–XRMA) while the mineralogical compositions were analysed by means of the X-ray diffraction (XRD) technique. The concentrations of major elements such as Na, Al, Si, Ca, Ti, Fe, S and K were determined by X-ray fluorescence (XRF), while heavy metals and other trace elements were determined by ICP-MS.
The physicochemical characterization of the raw materials used in the titanium dioxide industry, in addition to the characterization of the co-products generated, has enabled the evaluation of the degree of fractionation of different elements and compounds between the different co-products, as well as the control of the possible variations in the physicochemical composition of the raw materials throughout the time and the study of the influence of these variations in the characteristics of the obtained co-products.
As a main conclusion of our study, it is possible to indicate that the levels of the pollutant elements associated to the co-products analysed were, in general, within safe limits and, therefore, they could potentially be used in composites as fertilizers or for building materials in road construction, etc. Nevertheless, for the specific application of each of these co-products in agriculture, construction and civil engineering, additional studies need to be performed to evaluate their appropriateness for the proposed application, together with specific studies on their health and environmental impact.