Investigating the potential of synthetic humic-like acid to remove metal ions from contaminated water

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Humic acid can effectively bind metals and is a promising adsorbent for remediation technologies. Our studies initially focussed on Cu2+ as a common aqueous contaminant. Previous studies indicate that carboxylic groups dominate Cu2+ binding to humic acid. We prepared a synthetic humic-like acid (SHLA) with a high COOH content using catechol (0.25M) and glycine (0.25M) with a MnO2 catalyst (2.5% w/v) at pH = 8 and 25 C and investigated the adsorption behaviour of Cu2+ onto it. The SHLA exhibited a range of adsorption efficiencies (27% - 99%) for Cu2+ depending on reaction conditions. A pseudo-second-order kinetic model provided the best fit to the experimental data (R2 = 0.9995-0.9999, p < 0.0001), indicating that chemisorption was most likely the rate-limiting step for adsorption. The equilibrium adsorption data showed good fits to both the Langmuir (R2 = 0.9928 – 0.9982, p < 0.0001) and Freundlich (R2 = 0.9497 – 0.9667, p < 0.0001) models. The maximum adsorption capacity (qm) of SHLA increased from 46.44 mg/g to 58.78 mg/g with increasing temperature from 25 C to 45 C. Thermodynamic parameters (ΔG0=2.50-3.69 kJ/mol; ΔS0=0.06 kJ/(mol·K); ΔH0=15.23 kJ/mol) and values of RL (0.0142-0.3711) and n (3.264-3.527) show that the adsorption of Cu2+ onto SHLA was favourable, spontaneous and endothermic in nature. Over six adsorption/desorption cycles using 0.5M HCl for the desorption phase, there was a 10% decrease of the adsorption capacity. A final experiment using a multi-metal solution indicated adsorption efficiencies of up to 84.3-98.3% for Cu, 86.6-98.8% for Pb, 30.4-82.9% for Cr, 13.8-77.4% for Ni, 9.2-62.3% for Cd, 8.6-51.9% for Zn and 4.6-42.1% for Co. Overall, SHLA shows great potential as an adsorbent to remove metals from water and wastewater.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1036-1046
Number of pages11
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Issue number1
Early online date24 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2018

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© 2018 Elsevier B.V. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy.


  • Synthetic humic-like acid
  • metal ions
  • adsorption
  • kinetics
  • curves
  • thermodynamics
  • EGU 2018

    Ting Yang (Presenter) & Mark Edward Hodson (Advisor)

    8 Apr 201813 Apr 2018

    Activity: Participating in or organising an eventConference

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