The effects of the physicochemical features of aqueous medium on the mode of partitioning of humic acids (HAs) into a model biomimetic gel (alginate) and a synthetic polyacrylamide gel (PAAm) were explored. Experiments were performed under conditions of different pH and ionic strength as well as in the presence or absence of complexing divalent metal ions. The amount of HA penetrating the gel phase was determined by measuring its natural fluorescence by confocal laser scanning microscopy. In both gel types, the accumulation of HA was spatially heterogeneous, with a much higher concentration located within a thin film at the gel surface. The thickness of the surface film (ca. 15 µm) was similar for both types of gel and practically independent of pH, ionic strength, and the presence of complexing divalent metal ions. The extent of HA accumulation was found to be dependent on the composition of the medium and on the type of gel. Significantly more HA was accumulated in PAAm gel as compared to that in alginate gel. In general, more HA was accumulated at lower background salt concentration levels. The distribution of different types of HA species in the gel body was linked to their behavior in the medium and the differences in physicochemical conditions inside the two phases.
- alginate gel