The effect of complex formation on the adsorption characteristics of heavy metals

H. A. Elliott, C. P. Huang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


In most aqueous environmental systems, inorganic and organic metal complexes represent a significant contribution to the total soluble metal. Metal adsorption is often a highly pH-dependent phenomena. Such behavior can generally be attributed to changes in metal speciation with solution acidity as well as variation in the extent of surface protonation. Thus, because adsorbability may vary drastically between different metal species, (e.g. Cu2+ (aq) compared to CuOH+) a knowledge of metal species distribution is essential to understanding and interpreting metal adsorption behavior. Organic complexation has been reported to enhance, suppress and have no perceptible effect on trace metal adsorption. Such differences arise because adsorption depends on factors such as the ligand/metal ratio, adsorbability of the free ligand, and various solution parameters (e.g. pH). Most important in determining the effect of complexation on adsorption is the adsorbability of the resulting complexes. Thus, it is difficult to make generalizations about the influence of organic complexation on metal adsorption. Adsorption of metal complexes is frequently reported to be predominantly coulombic in nature; that is, binding of an anionic or cationic complex to an oppositely charged colloidal particle. However, electrostatic forces can often represent an insignificant contribution to the total free energy of adsorption and can be overshadowed by chemical reactions with the surface, hydrogen bonding, and hydrophobic effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)145-155
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironment international
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1979

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Science(all)


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