Acid-base properties of brown seaweed biomass considered as a Donnan gel. A model reflecting electrostatic effects and chemical heterogeneity
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Brown seaweeds are interesting materials to be used as biosorbents for heavy metals due to their high binding ability and low cost. The study of the passive biosorption of protons on this kind of materials and its dependency on pH, ionic strength, and medium composition is essential for the practical application of brown algae in wastewater treatment. This work reports the results of the study of the proton binding equilibria of dead biomass from the seaweeds Sargassum muticum, Cystoseira baccata, and Saccorhiza polyschides by potentiometric titration with a glass electrode in the pH range between 2 and 8. Two different salts, NaCl and KNO3, in concentrations ranging from 0.05 to 2 mol‚L-1 , were used as background electrolytes. The influence of the ionic strength was accounted for by means of the Donnan model in combination with the master curve approach. Different empirical expressions to describe the swelling behavior of the biosorbent were tested. On the basis of the intrinsic affinity distribution analysis a unimodal Langmuir-Freundlich isotherm was selected to describe the proton binding properties. The results show very little influence of the type of salt. The ionic strength dependency of the proton binding is very similar for the three species, and average empirical expressions of the Donnan volume are proposed. The maximum proton binding capacities obtained ranged between 2.4 and 2.9 mol‚kg-1 , with average intrinsic proton affinity constants between 3.1 and 3.3, and heterogeneity parameters of ca. 0.5 for S. muticum and C. baccata, and slightly higher (ca. 0.7) for S. polyschides. The combined Langmuir-Freundlich equation and Donnan model allowed a good description of the experimental charge vs pH curves obtained.