Application of carbon nanotubes to immobilize heavy metals in contaminated soils

  • Martim P. S. R. Matos
  • António Alberto S. CorreiaEmail author
  • Maria G. Rasteiro
Research Paper


The contamination of soils with heavy metals is a growing concern in modern societies. To avoid the spread of contamination, soil stabilization techniques can be applied mixing materials with the soil in order to partially immobilize heavy metals. Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are nanomaterials known for its exceptional properties, like high surface area and adsorption capacity. Due to these unique properties, the potential use of CNTs in heavy metal contaminated water has been studied, with very satisfactory results; however, their application in contaminated soils is practically unexplored. This experimental work is focused on studying the potential of using CNTs in soil remediation, especially to immobilize the heavy metals ions: lead (Pb2+), copper (Cu2+), nickel (Ni2+), and zinc (Zn2+), commonly present in contaminated soils. In order to avoid CNT agglomeration, which originates the loss of their beneficial properties, an aqueous suspension of CNTs was prepared using a non-ionic surfactant combined with ultrasonic energy to promote CNTs dispersion. Then, the soil, with and without the addition of CNTs, was subjected to adsorption tests to evaluate the CNT capacity to improve heavy metal immobilization. To validate the adsorption test results, permeability tests were executed, simulating the conditions of a real-case scenario. The results obtained led to the conclusion that the addition of a small amount of dispersed CNTs can successfully increase the adsorption capacity of the soil and consequently improve the immobilization of heavy metals in the soil matrix. The immobilization percentage varies with the different heavy metals under study.


Soil remediation Stabilization/solidification Adsorption tests Permeability tests Environmental effects 



We acknowledge the financial support of Pest/C/EQB/UI0102/2013 from FCT/MCTES (PIDDAC), co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the program COMPETE (POFC).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Martim P. S. R. Matos
    • 1
  • António Alberto S. Correia
    • 1
    Email author
  • Maria G. Rasteiro
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Civil Engineering, CIEPQPF—Chemical Process Engineering and Forest Products Research CentreUniversity of CoimbraCoimbraPortugal
  2. 2.Department of Chemical Engineering, CIEPQPFUniversity of CoimbraCoimbraPortugal

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