A novel red mud adsorbent for phosphorus and diclofenac removal from wastewater

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Journal Article
Journal of Molecular Liquids, 2020, 303
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© 2019 Elsevier B.V. The ubiquitous occurrence of nutrients (e.g. phosphorus) and micropollutants (e.g. pharmaceuticals and endocrine disrupting chemicals) in wastewater and urban stormwater runoff sources may cause adverse effects on aquatic ecosystems and human health. Therefore, the removal of these pollutants from wastewater, treated effluent, and urban stormwater runoff is critically needed. In this study, a novel modified red mud with polypyrrole (RM-PPy) was successfully synthesized with improved functional groups (–OH, –N=, –NH–, N+), specific area (SBET 102.24 m2/g), and mesopore structure (i.e. average pore diameter of 3.29 nm), which are assumed to enhance the adsorptive removal of diclofenac (DCF) and phosphorus (P) in aqueous solution. The measured maximum adsorption capacity of RM-PPy towards diclofenac (195 mg/g) in single adsorbate system was higher than that (115.7 mg/g) in the binary adsorbates system (i.e. in the presence of P), indicating that the presence of pollutants such as P in water hampered the adsorptive removal of DCF. The adsorption of DCF and P was largely dependent on solution pH values. Higher adsorptive removals of DCF and P were observed at acidic conditions (pH 2–5). Adsorption isotherm of DCF and P was better fitted to Freundlich model compared to Langmuir isotherm model, suggesting multilayer coverage. Adsorption of DCF onto RM-PPy might take place via anion exchange and electrostatic interactions. For P adsorption, apart from anion exchange and electrostatic interactions, the chemical precipitation via ligand exchange between P and hydroxyl (–OH) in RM-PPy can be considered as one of the main adsorption mechanisms. Further studies on the competitive adsorption of other anionic micropollutants at environmentally relevant concentrations (ng/L–μg/L) in water samples by RM-PPy are needed to evaluate the potential application of RM-PPy for the removal of other anionic micropollutants (i.e. antibiotics) in treated wastewater and stormwater runoff.
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