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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2008

Mechanisms of heavy metal sorption on alkaline clays from Tundulu in Malawi as determined by EXAFS

Sajidu, S. M. I.; Persson, I.; Masamba, W. R. L.; Henry, E. M. T.


Chromium(III), copper(II), zinc(II), cadmium(II), mercury(II) and lead(II) cations are among the most common heavy metal pollutants in industrial waste waters. In our continued work on cost effective wastewater heavy metal removal agents and methods using local material, this study examines the interactions of chromium(III), copper(II). zinc(II), cadmium(II), mercury(II) and lead(II) cations with natural mixed clay minerals from Tundulu in Malawi using extended X-ray absorption fine structure (EXAFS) spectroscopy. The mixed clays were previously characterised and found to contain illite, low ordered kaolinite, mixed layer minerals and the non-clay mineral carbonate fluoroapatite with a mean pH(PZC) of 9.63. The EXAFS analyses provided qualitative evidence that oxygen atoms occupy the first coordination shells in all the studied central atoms. The metal species on the clay mineral surfaces seem to be adsorbates and/or precipitates of hydrolysis products. Chromium(III) forms a polynuclear hydrolysis complex on the mineral surface with Cr-O bond and Cr...Cr distances of 2.00 and 3.03 angstrom, respectively, which is indicative of a chain structure with edge sharing CrO6 octahedra. Copper(II) is bound to phosphate groups on the surface at low pH and has a first shell of coordinated oxygen atoms with Jahn-Teller distortion as revealed by different Cu-O bonds of 1.96 angstrom for the equatorial ones, at 2.30 and 2.65 angstrom for the axial oxygens, and a Cu-P distance at 3.29 angstrom is distinguished as well. Upon treatment at neutral pH copper(I) oxide seems to be the main precipitation product on the clay surface. At neutral pH zinc(II) forms also polynuclear hydrolysis complexes with Zn-O bond and Zn...Zn distances of 2.01 and 3.11 angstrom, respectively. which shows the presence of edge sharing ZnO4 tetrahedra. Cadmium(II) is adsorbed to the clay surfaces as a six-coordinated CdO6 complex in octahedral fashion, but it is not possible to distinguish if cadmium is hydrated or partly hydrolysed. Mercury(II) is present as linear O-Hg-O units but without any observable Hg...Hg distance at high pH showing that mercury(II) is hydrolysed but not present as mercury(II) oxide. At low pH, linear O-Hg-Hg-O units are present showing that mercury(II) is reduced to mercury(I). No precise chemical environment around the lead(II) could be obtained for the lead(II) treated clays due to formation of different hydrolysis structures with multiple coordination numbers by lead(II) salts on the mixed clays. (c) 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved


Heavy metal; Tundulu mixed clay; pH(PZC); EXAFS; Polynuclear hydrolysis complex

Published in

Journal of Hazardous Materials
2008, volume: 158, number: 2-3, pages: 401-409

Authors' information

Sajidu, S. M. I.
University of Malawi
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Chemistry
Masamba, W. R. L.
University of Botswana
Henry, E. M. T.

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG6 Clean water
SDG3 Good health and wellbeing

UKÄ Subject classification

Inorganic Chemistry
Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use

Publication Identifiers


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