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Humic Acid Complexation of Th, Hf and Zr in Ligand Competition Experiments: Metal Loading and Ph EffectsThe mobility of metals in soils and subsurface aquifers is strongly affected by sorption and complexation with dissolved organic matter, oxyhydroxides, clay minerals, and inorganic ligands. Humic substances (HS) are organic macromolecules with functional groups that have a strong affinity for binding metals, such as actinides. Thorium, often studied as an analog for tetravalent actinides, has also been shown to strongly associate with dissolved and colloidal HS in natural waters. The effects of HS on the mobilization dynamics of actinides are of particular interest in risk assessment of nuclear waste repositories. Here, we present conditional equilibrium binding constants (Kc, MHA) of thorium, hafnium, and zirconium-humic acid complexes from ligand competition experiments using capillary electrophoresis coupled with ICP-MS (CE- ICP-MS). Equilibrium dialysis ligand exchange (EDLE) experiments using size exclusion via a 1000 Damembrane were also performed to validate the CE-ICP-MS analysis. Experiments were performed at pH 3.5-7 with solutions containing one tetravalent metal (Th, Hf, or Zr), Elliot soil humic acid (EHA) or Pahokee peat humic acid (PHA), and EDTA. CE-ICP-MS and EDLE experiments yielded nearly identical binding constants for the metal- humic acid complexes, indicating that both methods are appropriate for examining metal speciation at conditions lower than neutral pH. We find that tetravalent metals form strong complexes with humic acids, with Kc, MHA several orders of magnitude above REE-humic complexes. Experiments were conducted at a range of dissolved HA concentrations to examine the effect of [HA]/[Th] molar ratio on Kc, MHA. At low metal loading conditions (i.e. elevated [HA]/[Th] ratios) the ThHA binding constant reached values that were not affected by the relative abundance of humic acid and thorium. The importance of [HA]/[Th] molar ratios on constraining the equilibrium of MHA complexation is apparent when our estimated Kc, MHA values attained at very low metal loading conditions are compared to existing literature data. Overall, experimental data suggest that the tetravalent transition metal/-actinide-humic acid complexation is important over a wide range of pH values, including mildly acidic conditions, and thus, these complexes should be included in speciation models.
Document ID
Document Type
Reprint (Version printed in journal)
Stern, Jennifer C. (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Greenbelt, MD United States)
Foustoukos, Dionysis I. (Carnegie Institution of Washington Washington, DC, United States)
Sonke, Jeroen E. (Toulouse Univ. France)
Salters, Vincent J. M. (Florida State Univ. Tallahassee, FL, United States)
Date Acquired
May 3, 2016
Publication Date
January 10, 2014
Publication Information
Publication: Chemical Geology
Volume: 363
Subject Category
Lunar and Planetary Science and Exploration
Report/Patent Number
Distribution Limits
humic acid
metal mobility
ligand competition