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Nanoscale zerovalent iron (nZVI) supported by natural and acid-activated sepiolites: the effect of the nZVI/support ratio on the composite properties and Cd2+ adsorption

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Abstract

Natural (SEP) and partially acid-activated (AAS) sepiolites were used to prepare composites with nanoscale zerovalent iron (nZVI) at different (SEP or AAS)/nZVI ratios in order to achieve the best nZVI dispersibility and the highest adsorption capacity for Cd2+. Despite the higher surface area and pore volume of AAS, better nZVI dispersibility was achieved by using SEP as the support. On the other hand, a lower oxidation degree was achieved during the synthesis using AAS. X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) analysis of the composite with the best nZVI dispersibility, before and after Cd2+ adsorption, confirmed that the surface of the nZVI was composed of oxidized iron species. Metallic iron was not present on the surface, but it was detected in the subsurface region after sputtering. The content of zerovalent iron decreased after Cd2+ adsorption as a result of iron oxidation during Cd2+ adsorption. The XPS depth profile showed that cadmium was present not only at the surface of the composite but also in the subsurface region. The adsorption isotherms for Cd2+ confirmed that the presence of SEP and AAS decreased the agglomeration of the nZVI particles in comparison to the pure nZVI, which provided a higher adsorption capacity. The results showed that the prevention of both aggregation and oxidation during the synthesis was necessary for obtaining an SEP/AAS–nZVI composite with a high adsorption capacity, but oxidation during adsorption was beneficial for Cd2+ removal. The formation of strong bonds between Cd2+ and the adsorbents sites of different energy until monolayer formation was proposed according to modeling of the adsorption isotherms.

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Acknowledgments

The authors would like to acknowledge the financial support of the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technological Development of the Republic of Serbia through the project III 45019.

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Correspondence to Rada Petrović.

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Habish, A.J., Lazarević, S., Janković-Častvan, I. et al. Nanoscale zerovalent iron (nZVI) supported by natural and acid-activated sepiolites: the effect of the nZVI/support ratio on the composite properties and Cd2+ adsorption. Environ Sci Pollut Res 24, 628–643 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-016-7802-y

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