Adsorption of humic substances on goethite: Comparison between humic acids and fulvic acids

L.P. Weng, W.H. van Riemsdijk, L.K. Koopal, T. Hiemstra

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The adsorption of humic acids (HA) to goethite (at pH 3-11) and the proton co-adsorption (at pH 4.0, 5.5, and 7.0) were measured, and the results were compared to those of fulvic acids (FA). Compared to FA, the adsorption of HA is stronger and more ionic strength dependent. The adsorption of both HA and FA decreases with increasing pH. The relative change of the adsorption with pH is bigger for HA than for FA at relatively low pH. At relatively high pH, it is the opposite. Protons are released at pH 4.0 and co-adsorbed at pH 5.5 and 7.0 upon the adsorption of both HA and FA. The observed pH dependency of HA and FA adsorption is in agreement with the proton co-adsorption data. Model calculations show that the adsorbed FA particles are on average located in the Stern layer, whereas the adsorbed HA particles protrude beyond the Stern layer. The closer location to the surface of the adsorbed FA leads to stronger electrostatic interactions between the FA particles and the surface, which explains the larger amount of protons released at low pH and co-adsorbed at high pH with each mass unit of FA adsorbed than that with HA adsorbed. The model also reveals that for FA a mean-field (smeared-out) approximation is reasonable, but for HA a patchwise approach is more appropriate at relatively low loading.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7494-7500
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number24
Publication statusPublished - 2006


  • natural organic-matter
  • nica-donnan model
  • aluminum-oxide
  • ion-binding
  • water interface
  • clay-minerals
  • fractionation
  • surfaces
  • stoichiometry
  • isotherms

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