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Enhanced uranium removal from acidic wastewater by phosphonate-functionalized ordered mesoporous silica: surface chemistry matters the most



The removal of uranium species from aqueous phases using non-hazardous chemicals is still an open challenge, and remediation by adsorption is a prosperous strategy. Among the most crucial concerns regarding the design of an efficient material as adsorbent are, except the cost and the green character, the feasibility to be stable and effective under acidic pH, and to selectively adsorb the desired metal ion (e.g. uranium). Herein, we present a phosphonate functionalized ordered mesoporous silica (OMS-P), prepared by a one-step co-condensation synthesis. The physicochemical features of the material were determined by HR-TEM, XPS, EDX, N2 sorption, and solid NMR, while the surface zeta potential was also measured. The removal efficiency was evaluated at two different temperatures (20 and 50oC) in acidic environment to avoid interferences like solid phase formation or carbonate complexation and the adsorption isotherms, including data fitting with Langmuir and Freundlich models and thermodynamic parameters are presented and discussed. The high and homogeneous dispersion of the phosphonate groups within the entire silica’s structure led to the greatest reported up-todays capacity (345 mg/​g) at pH=4, which was achieved in less than 10 min. Additionally, OMS-P showed that the co-presence of other polyvalent cation like Eu(III) did not affect the efficiency of adsorption, which occurs via inner sphere complex formation. The comparison to the non-functionalized silica (OMS) revealed that the key feature towards an efficient, stable, and selective removal of the U(VI) species is the specific surface chemistry rather than the textural and structural features. Based on all the results and spectroscopic validations of surface adsorbed U(VI), the main interactions responsible for the elevated uranium removal were proposed.

D.A. Giannakoudakis, I. Anastopoulos, M. Barczak, Ε. Αntoniou, K. Terpiłowski, E.M. Sigarikar, M. Shams, E. Coy, A. Bakandritsos, I.A. Katsoyiannis, J.C. Colmenares, and I. Pashalidis. Journal of Hazardous Materials, 413 (2021125279.


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