Modified Polymer Removes Heavy Metals

Modified Polymer Removes Heavy Metals


Heavy metal ions, such as Pb2+, are toxic, can accumulate in living organisms, and can cause serious diseases. Removing them from water in a cheap, fast, and efficient way on a large scale is an important challenge.

Shufeng Ye, Institute of Process Engineering, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, and colleagues have developed a polymer that is modified with chelating agents which can bind heavy metal ions. The team first polymerized acrylamide on the surface of colloidal Al(OH)3 particles. The resulting Al(OH)3-polyacrylamide has a star-like structure, with AlOH3 cores surrounded by polyacrylamide chains. The polymer chains were then functionalized with diethylenetriamine as a linker and dithiocarbamate as a chelating agent.

To test the material’s adsorption capacity, the team added the functionalized polymer to solutions of Cu2+ or Pb2+. At concentrations of 50 mg/L, the material removed over 97 % of Cu2+ in 15 minutes and 99 % of Pb2+ in 30 minutes. The polymer can adsorb up to 417 mg Cu2+ or up to 893 mg Pb2+ per gram of adsorbent. The adsorption was attributed mainly to the chelating functional groups. According to the researchers, the adsorbent has potential for industrial applications.


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