Natural and pyrogenic humic acids at goethite and natural oxide surfaces interacting with phosphate

T. Hiemstra, S. Mia, P.B. Duhaut, B. Molleman

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54 Citations (Scopus)


Fulvic and humic acids have a large variability in binding to metal (hydr) oxide surfaces and interact differently with oxyanions, as examined here experimentally. Pyrogenic humic acid has been included in our study since it will be released to the environment in the case of large-scale application of biochar, potentially creating Darks Earths or Terra Preta soils. A surface complexation approach has been developed that aims to describe the competitive behavior of natural organic matter (NOM) in soil as well as model systems. Modeling points unexpectedly to a strong change of the molecular conformation of humic acid (HA) with a predominant adsorption in the Stern layer domain at low NOM loading. In soil, mineral oxide surfaces remain efficiently loaded by mineral-protected organic carbon (OC), equivalent with a layer thickness of =0.5 nm that represents at least 0.1–1.0% OC, while surface-associated OC may be even three times higher. In natural systems, surface complexation modeling should account for this pervasive NOM coverage. With our charge distribution model for NOM (NOM-CD), the pH-dependent oxyanion competition of the organo-mineral oxide fraction can be described. For pyrogenic HA, a more than 10-fold increase in dissolved phosphate is predicted at long-term applications of biochar or black carbon.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9182-9189
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number16
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • soil organic-matter
  • charge-distribution
  • fulvic-acid
  • iron-oxides
  • (alpha-feooh)/water interface
  • competitive interaction
  • molecular-structure
  • water interface
  • size fractions
  • ion adsorption

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