Removal of toxic metals in a multi metal system using sorbents for potential application to urban stormwater treatment

Mohamed Ziyath, Abdul Majeed (2012) Removal of toxic metals in a multi metal system using sorbents for potential application to urban stormwater treatment. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


In the context of increasing demand for potable water and the depletion of water resources, stormwater is a logical alternative. However, stormwater contains pollutants, among which metals are of particular interest due to their toxicity and persistence in the environment. Hence, it is imperative to remove toxic metals in stormwater to the levels prescribed by drinking water guidelines for potable use. Consequently, various techniques have been proposed, among which sorption using low cost sorbents is economically viable and environmentally benign in comparison to other techniques. However, sorbents show affinity towards certain toxic metals, which results in poor removal of other toxic metals. It was hypothesised in this study that a mixture of sorbents that have different metal affinity patterns can be used for the efficient removal of a range of toxic metals commonly found in stormwater.

The performance of six sorbents in the sorption of Al, Cr, Cu, Pb, Ni, Zn and Cd, which are the toxic metals commonly found in urban stormwater, was investigated to select suitable sorbents for creating the mixtures. For this purpose, a multi criteria analytical protocol was developed using the decision making methods: PROMETHEE (Preference Ranking Organisation METHod for Enrichment Evaluations) and GAIA (Graphical Analysis for Interactive Assistance). Zeolite and seaweed were selected for the creation of trial mixtures based on their metal affinity pattern and the performance on predetermined selection criteria. The metal sorption mechanisms employed by seaweed and zeolite were defined using kinetics, isotherm and thermodynamics parameters, which were determined using the batch sorption experiments. Additionally, the kinetics rate-limiting steps were identified using an innovative approach using GAIA and Spearman correlation techniques developed as part of the study, to overcome the limitation in conventional graphical methods in predicting the degree of contribution of each kinetics step in limiting the overall metal removal rate.

The sorption kinetics of zeolite was found to be primarily limited by intraparticle diffusion followed by the sorption reaction steps, which were governed mainly by the hydrated ionic diameter of metals. The isotherm study indicated that the metal sorption mechanism of zeolite was primarily of a physical nature. The thermodynamics study confirmed that the energetically favourable nature of sorption increased in the order of Zn < Cu < Cd < Ni < Pb < Cr < Al, which is in agreement with metal sorption affinity of zeolite. Hence, sorption thermodynamics has an influence on the metal sorption affinity of zeolite. On the other hand, the primary kinetics rate-limiting step of seaweed was the sorption reaction process followed by intraparticle diffusion. The boundary layer diffusion was also found to limit the metal sorption kinetics at low concentration. According to the sorption isotherm study, Cd, Pb, Cr and Al were sorbed by seaweed via ion exchange, whilst sorption of Ni occurred via physisorption. Furthermore, ionic bonding is responsible for the sorption of Zn. The thermodynamics study confirmed that sorption by seaweed was energetically favourable in the order of Zn < Cu < Cd < Cr . Al < Pb < Ni. However, this did not agree with the affinity series derived for seaweed suggesting a limited influence of sorption thermodynamics on metal affinity for seaweed.

The investigation of zeolite-seaweed mixtures indicated that mixing sorbents have an effect on the kinetics rates and the sorption affinity. Additionally, the theoretical relationships were derived to predict the boundary layer diffusion rate, intraparticle diffusion rate, the sorption reaction rate and the enthalpy of mixtures based on that of individual sorbents. In general, low coefficient of determination (R2) for the relationships between theoretical and experimental data indicated that the relationships were not statistically significant. This was attributed to the heterogeneity of the properties of sorbents. Nevertheless, in relative terms, the intraparticle diffusion rate, sorption reaction rate and enthalpy of sorption had higher R2 values than the boundary layer diffusion rate suggesting that there was some relationship between the former set of parameters of mixtures and that of sorbents. The mixture, which contained 80% of zeolite and 20% of seaweed, showed similar affinity for the sorption of Cu, Ni, Cd, Cr and Al, which was attributed to approximately similar sorption enthalpy of the metal ions. Therefore, it was concluded that the seaweed-zeolite mixture can be used to obtain the same affinity for various metals present in a multi metal system provided the metal ions have similar enthalpy during sorption by the mixture.

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ID Code: 53193
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Goonetilleke, Sobana, Adebajo, Moses, & Oloyede, Adekunle
Keywords: Freundlich isotherm, kinetics modelling, rate-limiting step, seaweed, sorbent mixtures, sorption enthalpy, stormwater treatment, toxic metals, zeolite
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Science & Engineering Faculty
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 17 Aug 2012 05:15
Last Modified: 10 Jul 2017 14:40

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