Nanoparticles in natural systems II: The natural oxide fraction at interaction with natural organic matter and phosphate

T. Hiemstra, J. Antelo, A.M.D. Los, W.H. van Riemsdijk

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51 Citations (Scopus)


Information on the particle size and reactive surface area of natural samples and its interaction with natural organic matter (NOM) is essential for the understanding bioavailability, toxicity, and transport of elements in the natural environment. In part I of this series (Hiemstra et al., 2010), a method is presented that allows the determination of the effective reactive surface area (A, m2/g soil) of the oxide particles of natural samples which uses a native probe ion (phosphate) and a model oxide (goethite) as proxy. In soils, the natural oxide particles are generally embedded in a matrix of natural organic matter (NOM) and this will affect the ion binding properties of the oxide fraction. A remarkably high variation in the natural phosphate loading of the oxide surfaces (G, µmol/m2) is observed in our soils and the present paper shows that it is due to surface complexation of NOM, acting as a competitor via site competition and electrostatic interaction. The competitive interaction of NOM can be described with the charge distribution (CD) model by defining a =NOM surface species. The interfacial charge distribution of this =NOM surface species can be rationalized based on calculations done with an evolved surface complexation model, known as the ligand and charge distribution (LCD) model. An adequate choice is the presence of a charge of -1 v.u. at the 1-plane and -0.5 v.u. at the 2-plane of the electrical double layer used (Extended Stern layer model). The effective interfacial NOM adsorption can be quantified by comparing the experimental phosphate concentration, measured under standardized field conditions (e.g. 0.01 M CaCl2), with a prediction that uses the experimentally derived surface area (A) and the reversibly bound phosphate loading (G, µmol/m2) of the sample (part I) as input in the CD model. Ignoring the competitive action of adsorbed NOM leads to a severe under-prediction of the phosphate concentration by a factor 10 to 1000. The calculated effective loading of NOM is low at a high phosphate loading (G) and vice versa, showing the mutual competition of both constituents. Both constituents in combination usually dominate the surface loading of natural oxide fraction of samples and form the backbone in modeling the fate of other (minor) ions in the natural environment. Empirically, the effective NOM adsorption is found to correlate well to the organic carbon content (OC) of the samples. The effective NOM adsorption can also be linked to DOC. For this, a Non-Ideal Competitive adsorption (NICA) model is used. DOC is found to be a major explaining factor for the interfacial loading of NOM as well as phosphate. The empirical NOM–OC relation or the parameterized NICA model can be used as an alternative for estimating the effective NOM adsorption to be implemented in the CD model for calculation of the surface complexation of field samples. The biogeochemical impact of the NOM–PO4 interaction is discussed
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-69
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • fulvic-acid
  • humic substances
  • water interface
  • competitive adsorption
  • surface complexation
  • charge-distribution
  • mineral surfaces
  • ion adsorption
  • iron-oxides
  • goethite

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