Excess phosphate in water is known to cause eutrophication, and its removal is imperative. Nanoclay minerals are widely used in environmental remediation due to their low-cost, adequate availability, environmental compatibility, and adsorption efficiency. However, the removal of anions with nanoclays is not very effective because of electrostatic repulsion from clay surfaces with a net negative charge. Among clay minerals, halloysite nanotubes (HNTs) possess a negatively charged exterior and a positively charged inner lumen. This provides an increased affinity for anion removal. In this study, HNTs are modified with nano-scale iron oxide (Fe 2 O 3 ) to enhance the adsorption capacity of the nanosorbent. This modification allowed for effective distribution of these oxide surfaces, which are known to sorb phosphate via ligand exchange and by forming inner-sphere complexes. A detailed characterization of the raw and (Fe 2 O 3 ) modified HNTs (Fe-HNT) is conducted. Influences of Fe 2 O 3 loading, adsorbent dosage, contact time, pH, initial phosphate concentration, and coexisting ions on the phosphate adsorption capacity are studied. Results demonstrate that adsorption on Fe-HNT is pH-dependent with fast initial adsorption kinetics. The underlying mechanism is identified as a combination of electrostatic attraction, ligand exchange, and Lewis acid-base interactions. The nanomaterial provides promising results for its application in water/wastewater treatment.
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