Algal biomass as adsorbents for heavy metal sorption from aqueous solutions
This thesis evaluates the performance of marine algal-based biosorbents in treating trace metal bearing aqueous solutions. Native seaweed varieties (Ascophyllum nodosum, Lessonia flavicans, Durvillea potatorum and Laminaria hyperborea) were selected on the basis of their varying algin composition as well as their characteristic mannuronic/guluronic acid content. Dealginated seaweed residues, i.e. waste materials arising during algin extraction from brown marine algae were also evaluated as potential metal biosorbent materials. The biosorbents showed significant metal sorption capacity for copper, cadmium, nickel and zinc from synthetic single metal and multi-metal bearing aqueous solutions. The equilibrium biosorption process may be described using a surface complex formation model. Copper biosorption involved chelation-type surface reactions as well as ion exchange whereas nickel and zinc biosorption may be described by simple ion exchange and electrostatic interactions between metal ions and the negatively charged algal surface. Evidence of stoichiometric release of protons upon metal biosorption has been found. Metal biosorption was found to be dependent upon transport limitations due to intraparticle diffusion. Surface functional groups within algal biosorbents that are responsible for metal-ion binding were identified in an attempt to understand the mechanisms of metal biosorption. Physical and chemical characterization techniques such as potentiometric titrations and esterification were used for surface acidity measurements, nitrogen sorption porosimetry for surface area and pore size distribution analysis and FT-IR spectroscopy to identify carboxyl groups attached to structural polysaccharides in algae. Performance of native and dealginate algal fixed-bed mini-columns provided optimum operating conditions for dynamic exchange between metal ions in solution and the algal biomass. Selected biosorbents were successfully employed to treat real industrial metal-plating rinse waters. The most efficient eluants for regeneration of metal-laden biosorbent columns were also identified.