Measuring free metal ion concentrations in situ in natural waters using the Donnan Membrane Technique

E.J.J. Kalis, L.P. Weng, F. Dousma, E.J.M. Temminghoff, W.H. van Riemsdijk

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90 Citations (Scopus)


Metal toxicity is not related to the total but rather to the free or labile metal ion concentration. One of the techniques that can be used to measure several free metal ion concentrations simultaneously is the Donnan Membrane Technique (DMT) in combination with the inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometer (ICP-MS). However, free metal ion concentrations in natural waters are commonly below the detection limit of ICP-MS. We decreased the detection limit by making use of a ligand, and we developed a field DMT cell that can be applied in situ in natural waters. A kinetic approach can be used to calculate free metal ion concentrations when the equilibrium time becomes too large. The field DMT measured in situ in natural waters a free metal ion concentration ranging from 0.015% (Cu) to 13% (Zn) of a total metal concentration ranging from 0.06 nM (Cd) to 237 nM (Zn). The free metal ion concentrations were difficult to predict using an equilibrium speciation model, probably due to the uncertainty in the nature of the dissolved organic matter or the presence of other reactive colloids. It is shown that DMT can follow changes in the free metal ion concentration on times scales less than a day under certain conditions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)955-961
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2006


  • dissolved organic-matter
  • speciation measurements
  • stripping voltammetry
  • humic substances
  • ligand-exchange
  • sandy soil
  • complexation
  • cadmium
  • binding
  • copper

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