Enhancement of phenanthrene adsorption on a clayey soil and clay minerals by coexisting lead or cadmium

Weihua Zhang, Luwen Zhuang, Yuan Yuan, Lizhi Tong, Daniel C.W. Tsang

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

77 Citations (Scopus)


Phenanthrene is commonly present together with heavy metals at many contaminated sites. This study investigated the influence of coexisting lead (Pb2+) or cadmium (Cd2+) on phenanthrene adsorption on soils. Batch experiments were conducted under different geochemical conditions including pH, mineral structure, organic matter content, and varying amounts of heavy metals. The results showed that the presence of heavy metals in solution at a fixed pH of 5.8±0.1 enhanced phenanthrene adsorption, the extent of which was closely related to the concentrations and the electro-negativity of the metals. The enhancement on phenanthrene adsorption was positively correlated to the amount of adsorbed metals. Although Cd2+is a softer Lewis acid, Pb2+displayed a more significant effect as it was adsorbed to a greater extent on the soil surfaces. Thus, density of cation accumulation appears to be more influential than metal softness in enhancing phenanthrene adsorption. Moreover, with a portion of organic matter removed by heating at 550°C, there was a stronger enhancement of phenanthrene adsorption by coexisting Pb2+, indicating an increasingly dominant mechanisms associated with Pb2+at a lower organic matter content. Similar enhancement phenomenon was observed on bentonite and kaolinite, probably resulting from the cation-π bonding between the adsorbed soft metal cations and the aromatic ring of phenanthrene in solution. The desorption experiments further suggested that the bonding of phenanthrene adsorption was strengthened in the presence of Pb2+and that a larger proportion of adsorbed phenanthrene remained on the soils (residual fraction) even after sequential methanol extractions. Further spectroscopic analyses and surface characterization are required to provide direct evidence of the formation and relative significance of cation-π bond for phenanthrene adsorption.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)302-310
Number of pages9
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Adsorption
  • Cation-π bond
  • Heavy metals
  • Organic matter
  • Phenanthrene

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • General Chemistry


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