Environmental science and pollution research international

Use of red mud (bauxite residue) for the retention of aqueous inorganic mercury(II).

PMID 26141977


The effectiveness of the oxide-rich residue from bauxite refining (red mud) to remove inorganic Hg(II) from aqueous solutions was assessed. The aspects studied comprised the kinetics of the process (t = 1 min-24 h), the effect of pH (3.5-11.5), the interacting effect between salt concentration (0.01-1 M NaNO3) and pH and the Hg(II) sorption isotherm. Hg leaching from spent red mud was evaluated using the toxicity characteristics leaching procedure (TCLP) method. The sorption of Hg(II) onto red mud was very fast, with most of Hg(II) (97.0-99.7%) being removed from 0.5-50 μM Hg solutions in few minutes. The kinetic process was best described by Ho's pseudo-second order equation, pointing to chemisorption as the rate controlling step. Hg(II) sorption efficiency was very high (% removal between 93.9 and 99.8%) within all the studied pH range (3.5-11.5) and added Hg concentrations (5 and 50 μM), being optimal at pH 5-8 and decreasing slightly at both lowest and highest pH. The effect of background electrolyte concentration suggests specific sorption as the main interaction mechanism between Hg(II) and red mud, but the increasing non-sorbed Hg concentrations at low and high pH for higher electrolyte concentrations also revealed the contribution of an electrostatic component to the process. The sorption isotherm showed the characteristic shape of high affinity sorbents, and it was better described by the Redlich-Peterson and Freundlich equations, which are models that assume sorbent heterogeneity and involvement of more than one mechanism. The estimated Hg(II) sorption capacity from the Langmuir equation (q m ~9 mmol/kg) was comparable to those of some inorganic commercial sorbents but lower than most bio- or specifically designed sorbents. The leachability of retained Hg(II) from spent red mud (0.02, 0.25 and 2.42 mmol Hg/kg sorbed concentration) was low (0.28, 1.15 and 2.23 μmol/kg, respectively) and accounted for 1.2, 0.5 and 0.1% of previously sorbed Hg, indicating that Hg(II) is tightly bound by red mud once sorbed.