In the usual method of calculating the solvent extraction of complex mixtures it is assumed that the complex mixture behaves like a binary mixture. However, the hypothetical binary composition of the mixture is never explicitly used; rather, an additive property of the mixture is used as an indication of its composition. The calculation must be done graphically on a triangular diagram or its equivalent.
On the assumption that the complex mixture consists of only two hypothetical components, empirical equations have been arrived at relating the distribution coefficients of these two components and of the solvent to the phase compositions. These equations contain three arbitrary constants. By use of the data from a minimum of three simple laboratory batch extractions of a given complex mixture, the three constants, plus the hypothetical binary composition of the original complex mixture, can be determined.
With the equations for the distribution coefficients, the equilibrium curve and tie lines for the system can be calculated. Properties of the raffinates and extracts can be measured and related to the hypothetical binary compositions of these mixtures.
The use of the method is demonstrated by comparing calculated results with laboratory yields and properties. The calculated results show good agreement with the experimental results. Calculations can be carried out not only on the triangular diagram, but by any of the other graphical methods that have been developed for the solvent extraction of binary mixtures. Equally important, calculations can be done analytically, and therefore the use of automatic computers is feasible.