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Immobilization Of Heavy Metals In Contaminated Soils—Performance Assessment In Conditions Similar To A Real Scenario

Antonio A. S. Correia, Martim P. S. R. Matos, Ana R. Gomes, Maria G. Rasteiro

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Soil “health” is becoming an increasing concern of modern societies, namely, at the European level, considering its importance to the fields of food, clean water, biodiversity, and even climate change control. On the other hand, human activities are contributing more and more to induce contamination in soils, especially in industrialized societies. This experimental work studies different additives (carbon nanotubes, clay, and Portland cement) with the aim to evaluate their effect on heavy metals, HMs (lead, cooper, nickel, and zinc) immobilization in a contaminated soil in conditions similar to a real scenario. Suspension adsorption tests (fluid-like condition) were performed aiming to supply preliminary information about the adsorption capacity of the soil towards the different HMs tested, while percolation tests (solid-like conditions) were performed aiming to evaluate the HMs immobilization by different additives in conditions similar to a real situation of soil contamination. Results showed that soil particles alone were able to retain considerable amounts of HMs (especially Pb and Cu) which is linked to their fine grain size and the soil high organic matter content. In conditions of good dispersion of the additives, addition of carbon nanotubes or clay can rise the HMs adsorption, except in the case of Zn2+ due to its low electronegativity and high mobility. Moreover, the addition of cement to the soil showed a high capacity to immobilize the HMs which is due to the chemical fixation of the HMs to binder hydration products. In this case, HMs immobilization comes associated with a soil stabilization strategy. The results allow to conclude that the additives, carbon nanotubes and clay, have the potential to minimize HMs mobility in contaminated soils and can be a valid alternative to the usual additive, Portland cement, when tested in conditions similar to a real on-site situation, if the objective is not to induce also soil stabilization, for instance, to enable its use for construction purposes. The results obtained can help designers and decision-makers in the choice of the best materials to remediate HMs contaminated soils.