The Intrinsic Stability of Metal Ion Complexes with Nanoparticulate Fulvic Acids

Raewyn M. Town*, Jérôme F.L. Duval, Herman P. van Leeuwen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


The electrostatic contributions to metal ion binding by fulvic acids (FAs) are characterized in light of recent theoretical developments on description of the net charge density of soft nanoparticles. Under practical electrolyte concentrations, the radius of the small, highly charged soft nanoparticulate FAs is comparable to the electrostatic screening length and their electric potential profile has a bell shape that extends into the surrounding aqueous medium. Consequently, accumulation of counterions in the extraparticulate zone can be significant. By comparison of experimentally derived Boltzmann partitioning coefficients with those computed on the basis of (i) the structural FA particle charge and (ii) the potential profile for a nanoparticulate FA entity equilibrated with indifferent electrolyte, we identify the thickness of the extraparticulate counter charge accumulation shell in 1-1 and 2-1 electrolytes. The results point to the involvement of counterion condensation phenomena and call into question the approaches for modeling electrostatic contributions to ion binding that are invoked by popular equilibrium speciation codes. Overall, the electrostatic contributions to Cdaq2+ and Cuaq2+ association with FA are weaker than those previously found for much larger humic acids (HA). The intrinsic chemical binding strength of CdFA is comparable to that of CdHA, whereas CuFA complexes are weaker than CuHA ones.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11682-11690
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number20
Early online date18 Sept 2018
Publication statusPublished - 16 Oct 2018


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