The influence of humic acid and clay content on the transport of polymer-coated iron nanoparticles through sand

Bahngmi Jung, Denis O'Carroll, Brent Sleep

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

27 Citations (Scopus)


The introduction of nanoscale zero valent iron (nZVI) into the subsurface has recently received significant attention as a potentially effective method for remediation of source zones of chlorinated solvents present as dense nonaqueous phase liquids (DNAPL). One of the challenges in the deployment of nZVI is to achieve good subsurface nZVI mobility to permit delivery of the nZVI to the target treatment zone. Stabilization of nZVI with various polymers has shown promise for enhancing nZVI subsurface mobility, but the impact of subsurface conditions on nZVI mobility has not been fully explored. In this study, the effect of humic acid and kaolinite on the transport of polymer-stabilized nZVI (carboxylmethyl cellulose-surface modified nZVI, CMC90K-RNIP) in sand was investigated using column experiments. In addition, effects of electrolytes on the stability of CMC90K-RNIP in the presence of humic acid, and the stability of humic acid-coated reactive nanoscale iron particles (HA-RNIP) at various humic acid concentrations were investigated. Humic acid enhanced the mobility of bare RNIP, whereas the transport of CMC90K-RNIP was not significantly affected by humic acid injected as a background solution, except at the highest concentration of 500. mg/L. At lower pore water velocity, the effect of humic acid on the transport of CMC90K-RNIP was greater than that at high water velocity. Adding kaolinite up to 2% by weight to the sand column reduced the retention of CMC90K-RNIP, but further increases in kaolinite content (to 5%) did not significantly affect nZVI retention. The impact of kaolinite on nZVI retention was more pronounced at lower pore water velocities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)155-164
Number of pages10
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 5 Oct 2014



  • Colloid stability
  • Humic acid
  • Kaolinite
  • Nanoscale zero valent iron
  • Surface stabilizer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution

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