Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Phosphorus adsorption on natural sediments with different pH incorporating surface morphology characterization


Sediment samples from University Lake (U.L.) and Anacostia River (A.R.) were collected to study the phosphorus (P) adsorption with pH at 3.65, 4.75, and 5.65. The surface micro-morphology and pore structures of sediment particles were obtained using a scanning electron microscopy and gas adsorption method, respectively. Fourier analysis was then applied to approximate the surface morphology, which was incorporated into the Langmuir isotherm to directly derive the model parameters for P adsorption simulation. Meanwhile, an empirical function of pH was introduced to represent the pH effect on P adsorption. A stronger P adsorption was observed for the A.R. sediment due to the more clay minerals, smaller median diameter, and a greater percentage of large pores, and the increasing pH resulted in a decrease of adsorption equilibrium constant as well as the P adsorption capacity, which was well reproduced by the adsorption isotherms. This study would benefit the mechanism study of the interactions between sediment particles and pollutants, providing references for understanding the pollutants’ transport in aqueous systems.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7


  1. 1.

    At pH 3.65, samples of 1.0 g dried sediments were loaded into a series of 30-mL phosphate solutions with the P concentrations of 1.0, 2.0, 5.0, 10, 20, 25, and 30 mg/L.


  1. Antelo J, Avena M, Fiol S, López R, Arce F (2005) Effect of pH and ionic strength on the adsorption of phosphate and arsenate at the goethite-water interface. J Colloid Interf Sci 285:476–486

  2. Barrett EP, Joyner LG, Halenda PP (1951) The determination of pore volume and area distributions in porous substances. I. Computations from nitrogen isotherms. J Am Chem Soc 73:373–380

  3. Brandt RK, Hughes MR, Bourget LP, Truszkowska K, Greenler RG (1993) The interpretation of CO adsorbed on Pt/SiO2 of two different particle-size distributions. Surf Sci 286:15–25

  4. Danen-Louwerse H, Lijklema L, Coenraats M (1993) Iron content of sediment and phosphate adsorption properties. Hydrobiologia 253:311–317

  5. Davis JA, Kent DB (1990) Surface complexation modeling in aqueous geochemistry. Rev Mineral Geochem 23:177–260

  6. de Jonge H, de Jonge LW, Jacobsen OH, Yamaguchi T, Moldrup P (2001) Glyphosate sorption in soils of different pH and phosphorus content. Soil Sci 166:230–238

  7. Elser JJ, Bracken MES, Cleland EE, Gruner DS, Harpole WS, Hillebrand H, Ngai JT, Seabloom EW, Shurin JB, Smith JE (2007) Global analysis of nitrogen and phosphorus limitation of primary producers in freshwater, marine and terrestrial ecosystems. Ecol Lett 10:1135e1142

  8. Esposito A, Pagnanelli F, Vegliò F (2002) pH-related equilibria models for biosorption in single metal systems. Chem Eng Sci 57:307–313

  9. Fang HW, Chen MH, Chen ZH (2008) Analysis of polluted sediment surface pore tension and adsorption characteristics. Sci China, Ser G 51:1022–1028

  10. Fang HW, Chen MH, Chen ZH, Zhao HM, He GJ (2013) Effects of sediment particle morphology on adsorption of phosphorus elements. Int J Sediment Res 28:246–253

  11. Fang HW, Chen MH, Chen ZH, Zhao HM, He GJ (2014) Simulation of sediment particle surface morphology and element distribution by the concept of mathematical sand. J Hydro-environ Res 8:186–193

  12. Fang HW, Zhao HM, Chen ZH, Chen MH, Zhang YF (2015) 3D shape and morphology characterization of sediment particles. Granul Matter 17:135–143

  13. Fang HW, Lai RX, Lin BL, Xu XY, Zhang FX, Zhang YF (2016) Variational-based data assimilation to simulate sediment concentration in the Lower Yellow River, China. J Hydrol Eng 21:04016010

  14. Gimsing AL, Borggaard OK, Bang M (2004) Influence of soil composition on adsorption of glyphosate and phosphate by contrasting Danish surface soils. Eur J Soil Sci 55:183–191

  15. Goldberg S, Sposito G (1984) A chemical model of phosphate adsorption by soils: II. Noncalcareous soils. Soil Sci Soc Am J 48:779–783

  16. Groen JC, Peffer LA, Pérez-Ramı́rez J (2003) Pore size determination in modified micro-and mesoporous materials. Pitfalls and limitations in gas adsorption data analysis. Micropor Mesopor Mat 60:1–17

  17. Han BC, Miranda CR, Ceder G (2008) Effect of particle size and surface structure on adsorption of O and OH on platinum nanoparticles: a first-principles study. Phys Rev B 77:075410

  18. Hao X, Spieker WA, Regalbuto JR (2003) A further simplification of the revised physical adsorption (RPA) model. J Colloid Interf Sci 267:259–264

  19. Hong YS, Kinney KA, Reible DD (2011) Effects of cyclic changes in pH and salinity on metals release from sediments. Environ Toxicol Chem 30:1775–1784

  20. Horcajada P, Ramila A, Perez-Pariente J, Vallet-Regı M (2004) Influence of pore size of MCM-41 matrices on drug delivery rate. Micropor Mesopor Mat 68:105–109

  21. Huang L, Fang HW, Chen MH (2012) Experiment on surface charge distribution of fine sediment. Sci China Ser E 55:1146–1152

  22. Huang L, Fang HW, Reible DD (2015) Mathematical model for interactions and transport of phosphorus and sediment in the Three Gorges Reservoir. Water Res 85:393–403

  23. Iqbal J, Shah MH, Shaheen N (2015) Distribution, source identification and risk assessment of selected metals in sediments from freshwater lake. Int J Sediment Res 30:241–249

  24. Johnson BB (1990) Effect of pH, temperature, and concentration on the adsorption of cadmium on goethite. Environ Sci Technol 24:112–118

  25. Olsen SR, Watanabe FS (1957) A method to determine a phosphorus adsorption maximum of soils as measured by the Langmuir isotherm. Soil Sci Soc Am J 21:144–149

  26. Pagnanelli F, Esposito A, Toro L, Vegliò F (2003) Metal speciation and pH effect on Pb, Cu, Zn and Cd biosorption onto Sphaerotilus natans: Langmuir-type empirical model. Water Res 37:627–633

  27. Palleyi S, Banoo S, Kar RN, Panda CR (2015) Textural and geochemical characteristics of off shore sediment of North Bay of Bengal: a statistical approach for marine metal pollution. Int J Sediment Res 30:208–222

  28. Pelekani C, Snoeyink VL (1999) Competitive adsorption in natural water: role of activated carbon pore size. Water Res 33:1209–1219

  29. Rodda DP, Johnson BB, Wells JD (1996) Modeling the effect of temperature on adsorption of lead (II) and zinc (II) onto goethite at constant pH. J Colloid Interf Sci 184:365–377

  30. Schindler DW (2006) Recent advances in the understanding and management of eutrophication. Limnol Oceanogr 51:356e363

  31. Selig U (2003) Particle size-related phosphate binding and P-release at the sediment-water interface in a shallow German lake. Hydrobiologia 492:107–118

  32. Shen ZL (2006) Phosphorus and silicate fluxes in the Yangtze River. Acta Geogr Sinica 61:741–751, in Chinese

  33. Sohn S, Kim D (2005) Modification of Langmuir isotherm in solution systems—definition and utilization of concentration dependent factor. Chemosphere 58:115–123

  34. Venkatramanan S, Chung SY, Ramkumar T, Gnanachandrasamy G, Kim TH (2015) Evaluation of geochemical behavior and heavy metal distribution of sediments: the case study of the Tirumalairajan river estuary, southeast coast of India. Int J Sediment Res 30:28–38

  35. Wang FY, Chen JS (2000) Preliminary research on surface properties of river surface sediment in eastern China. Acta Scien Circum 20:682–687 (in Chinese)

  36. Wang SR, Jin XC, Bu QY, Zhou XN, Wu FC (2006) Effects of particle size, organic matter and ionic strength on the phosphate sorption in different trophic lake sediments. J Hazard Mater 128:95–105

  37. Wang Y, Shen ZY, Niu JF, Liu RM (2009) Adsorption of phosphorus on sediments from the Three-Gorges Reservoir (China) and the relation with sediment compositions. J Hazard Mater 162:92–98

  38. Wang XY, Zhang LP, Zhang HS, Wu XY, Mei DL (2012) Phosphorus adsorption characteristics at the sediment-water interface and relationship with sediment properties in FUSHI reservoir, China. Environ Earth Sci 67:15–22

  39. Yan F, Chu YY, Zhang K, Zhang FF, Bhandari N, Ruan GD, Dai ZY, Liu Y, Zhang Z, Kan AT, Tomson MB (2015) Determination of adsorption isotherm parameters with correlated errors by measurement error models. Chem Eng J 281:921–930

  40. Yu KC, Tsai LJ, Chen SH, Ho ST (2001) Correlation analyses on binding behavior of heavy metals with sediment matrices. Water Res 35:2417–2428

  41. Zhao Y, Yang S, Li HH, Wang D (2015) Adsorption behaviors of acetaminophen onto sediment in the Weihe River, Shaanxi, China. Int J Sediment Res 30:263–271

  42. Zheng TT, Sun ZX, Yang XF, Holmgren A (2012) Sorption of phosphate onto mesoporous γ-alumina studied with in-situ ATR-FTIR spectroscopy. Chem Cent J 6:26

Download references


This research is financially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 51139003 and No. 11372161). The authors wish to thank Dr. Fei Yan and Dr. Ariette Schierz for the sediment sampling and P adsorption experiment, and Prof. Zhi-Wu Yu for the improvement of the manuscript.

Author information

Correspondence to Hongwei Fang.

Additional information

Responsible editor: Marcus Schulz

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.


(DOCX 37 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Huang, L., Fang, H., He, G. et al. Phosphorus adsorption on natural sediments with different pH incorporating surface morphology characterization. Environ Sci Pollut Res 23, 18883–18891 (2016).

Download citation


  • Sediment particles
  • Phosphorus adsorption
  • Surface morphology
  • Pore structure
  • Langmuir isotherm