Service de Biogéochimie et Modélisation du Système Terre, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Campus de la Plaine - CP 208, Boulevard du Triomphe, B-1050 Brussels, Belgium; Laboratory of Analytical, Environmental and Geo-Chemistry, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Pleinlaan 2, 1050 Brussels, Belgium. Electronic address: [Email]
Phosphate adsorption on suspended sediments is largely influenced by the variations in salinity and pH such as is the case in estuaries where freshwater mixes with seawater, exhibiting strong physico-chemical gradients. In this research, the influence of salinity and pH on the adsorption of phosphate on hydrous ferric oxides (HFO) was investigated in NaCl solutions. The adsorption isotherm data at different salinities can be well fitted with the Langmuir-Freundlich model. At pH 8.5 the maximum adsorption capacity increases with increasing salinity, from 22.7 mg PO4/g at salinity 0-78.5 mg PO4/g at salinity 35 PSU (Practical Salinity Unit) with the largest increase occurring in the low salinity range (76.8 mg PO4/g at salinity 5 PSU). Phosphate adsorption is also highly pH dependent and the adsorption capacity decreases with increasing pH. The dependence of phosphate adsorption on salinity could be attributed to the inner-sphere complexation. The presence of Na+ modifies the phosphate speciation, which can also facilitate phosphate adsorption. Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) results show that both bidentate (≡Fe2PO4) and monodentate (≡FePO4) complexes are formed during phosphate adsorption on HFO surface. Quantitative relationships between phosphate adsorption and salinity are proposed for the different pHs investigated in this study, which is important for the understanding of the phosphate adsorption dynamics during estuarine mixing.