Journal of Nanoparticle Research

, 14:1087 | Cite as

Characterization of carbon nano-onions for heavy metal ion remediation

  • Megan B. Seymour
  • Chunming Su
  • Yang Gao
  • Yongfeng Lu
  • Yusong Li
Research Paper


Carbonaceous nanomaterials, such as fullerene C60, carbon nanotubes, and their functionalized derivatives have been demonstrated to possess high sorption capacity for organic and heavy metal contaminants, indicating a potential for remediation application. The actual application of these nanomaterials, however, is often hindered by the high cost of materials and the limited understanding of their mobility in porous media. In this work, carbon nano-onions (CNOs), a relatively new addition to the carbonaceous nanomaterials, were synthesized in a cost-effective way using a laser-assisted combustion synthesis process, and carefully characterized for their potential remediation application. Surface oxidized CNOs possessed 10 times higher sorption capacity than C60 for heavy metal ion contaminants including Pb2+, Cu2+, Cd2+, Ni2+, and Zn2+. CNOs aqueous suspension can be very stable in NaCl solution at ionic strength up to 30 mM and CaCl2 solution at ionic strength up to 4 mM CaCl2 when pH ranged from 5 to 9, which are consistent with environmentally relevant conditions. Interactions of CNOs with iron oxide and silica surfaces under favorable condition were found to be electrostatic in origin. Mobility of CNOs in quartz sands was controlled by electrolyte type and concentration. Approximately 4.4, 25.1, and 92.5 % of injected CNO mass were retained in the sand column in ultrapure water, 1 mM NaCl, and 1 mM CaCl2 solutions, respectively.


Carbon nano-onions Characterization Sorption Heavy metal ion Mobility 



We thank Drs. Gexin Chen and Xuyang Liu at the Robert S. Kerr Environmental Research Center for tremendous helps on experimental setup and insightful suggestions and discussions, and Mr. Adam Bailes for helping with column experiments. This research was funded by the US EPA through the National Research Council summer faculty fellowship and EPA student summer internship, and the National Science Foundation Award No. CBET-1133528. The work has not been subject to EPA review, and therefore, does not necessarily reflect the views of the agency, and no official endorsement should be inferred.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Megan B. Seymour
    • 1
  • Chunming Su
    • 2
  • Yang Gao
    • 3
  • Yongfeng Lu
    • 3
  • Yusong Li
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Civil EngineeringUniversity of Nebraska- LincolnLincolnUSA
  2. 2.National Risk Management Research LaboratoryUnited States Environmental Protection AgencyAdaUSA
  3. 3.Department of Electrical EngineeringUniversity of Nebraska- LincolnLincolnUSA

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