Natural Resources, School of


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Published in Chemical Engineering Journal 217 (February 1, 2013), pp. 54-60; doi: 10.1016/j.cej.2012.11.097


Copyright © 2012 Elsevier B.V. Used by permission.


The effectiveness of nanoscale zero-valent iron (nZVI) to remove heavy metals from water is reduced by its low durability, poor mechanical strength, and tendency to form aggregates. A composite of zeolite and nanoscale zero-valent iron (Z–nZVI) overcomes these problems and shows good potential to remove Pb from water. FTIR spectra support nZVI loading onto the zeolite and reduced Fe0 oxidation in the Z–nZVI composite. Scanning electron micrographs show aggregation was eliminated and transmission electron micrographs show well-dispersed nZVI in chain-like structures within the zeolite matrix. The mean surface area of the composite was 80.37 m2/g, much greater than zeolite (1.03 m2/g) or nZVI (12.25 m2/g) alone, as determined by BET-N2 measurement. More than 96% of the Pb(II) was removed from 100 mL of solution containing 100 mg Pb(II)/L within 140 min of mixing with 0.1 g Z–nZVI. Tests with solution containing 1000 mg Pb(II)/L suggested that the capacity of the Z–nZVI is about 806 mg Pb(II)/g. Energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy showed the presence of Fe in the composite; X-ray diffraction confirmed formation and immobilization of Fe0 and subsequent sorption and reduction of some of the Pb(II) to Pb0. The low quantity of Pb(II) recovered in water-soluble and Ca(NO3)2-extractable fractions indicate low bioavailability of the Pb(II) removed by the composite. Results support the potential use of the Z–nZVI composite in permeable reactive barriers.